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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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First 2018 mock draft (top-25 projection)

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts this week. Disney didn’t have Wifi. Who knew!?

With the college football regular season complete, here’s a top-25 mock draft. The order is taken from the brilliantly named ‘Tankathon’ website. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Note — I didn’t include Sam Darnold. There’s enough talk about him staying at USC to believe that is likely.

Second note — this is a (very early) projection not a breakdown of where I think every player should go.

#1 Cleveland β€” Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
With accuracy, a great release, the ability to make a range of throws and ideal size — Rosen has every chance to become a very good NFL quarterback.

#2 New York Giants β€” Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
Allen’s 2017 season doesn’t warrant a pick this high. Yet his physical tools will likely entice teams during the post-season workouts. There’s every chance someone will take him this early based on upside even if he has a lot to work on at the next level.

#3 San Francisco β€” Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
The best player eligible for the 2018 draft with a perfect blend of explosive physical traits, size, playmaking ability and character. A star in the making.

#4 Denver β€” Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
Mayfield is sparky, competitive and completely warrants a selection this early. He’s elusive and improvises superbly when necessary but also makes plays in the pocket. The Broncos need some excitement on offense.

#5 Indianapolis β€” Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
You have to watch Vea live to really appreciate just how good he is. There aren’t many human’s on the planet who get around the field like he does at a listed 6-5 and 340lbs. The next Haloti Ngata.

#6 Chicago β€” Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Bradley is Nick Chubb’s cousin. Nick had one of the best SPARQ workouts imaginable in 2013 at the Nike combine. Bradley is a 6-4, 275lbs version of Nick.

#7 Cleveland — (via Houston) β€” Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
The Browns should take inspiration from the Jaguars. Throw money on stud D-liners in free agency and bring in a young star for the secondary.

#8 Tampa Bay β€” Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Wilkins plays a bit like Sheldon Richardson. He might not be quite the same disrupter when rushing the passer but he’s incredibly active playing across the line and his motor never stops.

#9 Arizona β€” Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Possibly the second best player in the draft behind Saquon Barkley. Nelson could go earlier than this depending on how he works out. Terrific prospect. Everything you want from a guard — physical, gets to the second level, plays with an edge.

#10 New York Jets β€” Connor Williams (T, Texas)
In a league with an increasing left tackle problem, Williams will likely go quite early. He’s highly athletic and should test well. His 2017 season was impacted by a knee injury.

#11 Washington β€” Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Showed in the SEC Championship game what an impressive player he is. Might not make a ton of splash plays but flies around the field, sets the tone and rarely puts a foot wrong.

#12 Miami β€” Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Quenton Nelson is really good but Billy Price isn’t a million miles behind him. Plays with the same edge and tenacity. Urban Meyer raves about him. He coached both Pouncey brothers.

#13 Cincinnati β€” Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Plays bigger than his listed 6-5 and 260lbs. Helps set the edge against the run and does the little things right. Has 8.5 sacks in 2017 but 3.5 came in one game against Syracuse. Consistent performer.

#14 LA Chargers β€” Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Dominated Harold Landry when Notre Dame met Boston College. Might not be the most athletic but he appears to be relatively sound in his technique and footwork and worked well with Quenton Nelson.

#15 Dallas β€” Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
I wanted to put Settle higher than this — and probably will do if he declares. He is an incredible prospect. At times he looks like Warren Sapp rushing the passer. Incredible mobility for his size. Fantastic talent.

#16 Oakland β€” Derwin James (S, Florida State)
A big name player and a big hitter too. He is what he is though — a strong safety. And that can be a valuable thing as we know in Seattle. I just wonder if his stock is more Eric Reid than Eric Berry.

#17 Detroit β€” Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Really good prospect who might be a bit underrated after Florida’s horrible season. Strong at the POA and can dominate with the bull rush — but has enough quick twitch ability to be an effective pass rusher.

#18 Buffalo β€” Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Another player who probably suffers because Michigan had a middling season. He looked really good in the first few weeks of the season, constantly providing the kind of interior pass rush teams crave.

#19 Green Bay β€” Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
When I started this mock I wanted to put both Miller and Tim Settle in the top-15 but couldn’t make it work. Miller will be one of the grittiest players in the draft — but he’s also a big time playmaker. There’s a little OBJ to his game.

#20 Atlanta β€” Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Sutton recently made the kind of one-handed, improbable grab that makes you think he could still get into the top-15. He won’t be the best tester but he has Dez Bryant’s frame and a knack for the big play.

#21 Buffalo (via Kansas City) β€” Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
The Bills could use their two first round picks to move up for a quarterback. Is Lamar Jackson too similar to Tyrod Taylor, who they seem determined to move on from? Kerryon is completely worth a first round grade and could replace LeSean McCoy as the lead back in Buffalo.

#22 Baltimore β€” Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
The Ravens love ‘Bama. Ridley is really solid but isn’t the most explosive or exciting receiver to watch. He finds ways to get open and will provide a reliable if mostly unspectacular option at the next level.

#23 Seattle β€” Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Harris is an explosive athlete, fits Seattle’s size-profile at RB, averaged 8.2 YPC in 2017, blocks ferociously in pass protection and is a much bigger playmaker than people perhaps realise.

#24 Carolina β€” Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Harrison flies around the field and makes big, jarring hits. His sledgehammer blow to Kerryon Johnson basically cost Auburn a chance to compete with Georgia in the SEC Championship.

#25 Jacksonville β€” Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
I really like Jackson and think he could easily go much earlier than this. He’s underrated — a better passer than people give him credit for, with similar athletic creativity to Michael Vick. He’d be a great fit in Jacksonville to go with that defense.

Honourable mention:

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
I wanted to fit him in the top-25 and would’ve had him in the first round if this was a full projection. If the health of his knee checks out and he has the kind of workout we know he’s capable of, he’ll go in round one.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks win, move to 8-4

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Home underdogs for the first time since 2011, experiencing a two-game losing streak at Century Link Field and needing a win to energise the season, not just keep pace with the playoff contenders.

This was a huge (and comprehensive) victory for the Seahawks.

In front of a national audience, Russell Wilson made a case to be a MVP candidate. If the Seahawks keep winning, he’ll be up there.

The defense, banged up and missing key players, limited the Eagles to ten points. Coming into the game they were averaging 32 points per game.

And more than anything this win will get people believing again. It will bring a drifting season back to life. Defeat would’ve had Seattle out of the wildcard spots and two games behind the Rams in the NFC West battle. They could’ve been toast.

Now they’ve beaten a team that were fancied by six points to win in Seattle according to Vegas. Maybe that put the chip back on one or two shoulders?

Nobody was doing the ‘electric slide’ tonight.

This will be a shorter review of the game because it’s 4:40am and in a few hours I’ll be driving to France. Here are some quick notes:

— The defense is missing key defenders but what we saw today is there’s still enough talent to make life difficult for a top opponent. That said, the Eagles started with a very conservative approach. If the two teams meet again down the line, that won’t happen for a second time.

— Jimmy Graham continued his incredible red zone scoring streak. He is a vital part of this team.

— Bradley McDougald had a terrific performance, making several important plays. Based on what he’s shown so far, he might be a priority re-sign.

— Mike Davis might not be a long term answer or the type of player who will get you +100 yards. For now though, he is just what they need to get ‘enough’ out of the running game. He played well again today.

— Wilson is just in majestic form. MVP? Why not? He doesn’t benefit from a fantastic running game like Tom Brady and Carson Wentz.

— Speaking of MVP’s — Bobby Wagner and Calais Campbell have to be at the front of the race for the defensive player of the year.

— Seattle started strongly and played clean football with only a handful of penalties. That is a major positive.

— The Seahawks are 8-4. It’s hard not to think about those two home losses to Atlanta and Washington and wonder what could’ve been.

— Today is also a reminder that as well as Philly, Minnesota and New Orleans have played — they’re not the 2013 Seahawks and are not unbeatable in the post-season.

— This result might focus a few minds in Philadelphia. Good. Their next game is in LA against the Rams.

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Quick Thursday notes: RB rankings

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

The Seahawks aggressively address their needs and the running game appears set for major surgery in the off-season. For a team so determined to make the run a focal point of their offense, the 2017 campaign has been a failure in that regard:

The injury to Chris Carson didn’t help — but clearly the likes of Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise haven’t provided an answer to the problem.

Carson’s success (and to some extent Mike Davis’ cameo against the Falcons) shows running backs can succeed in Seattle’s scheme. With Thomas Rawls in the doghouse, it seems like the Seahawks view this as a running back problem rather than an O-line issue (even if chemistry can still be developed up front).

Seattle could draft two running backs in 2018 it’s that deep a class. Whether they stick in round one or trade down to make up for the picks spent on Brown and Sheldon Richardson, they could take one early and one in the later rounds. This feels like the year to do it.

I’ve done bigger write-ups on Damien Harris (here and here) and Kerryon Johnson (here and here) and have spent time studying most of the bigger names eligible for 2018. Harris and Johnson, for now, might be the two to focus on — but here’s a top-eight list based on what I’ve seen so far:

1. Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
2a Damien Harris (Alabama)
2b Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
4 Nick Chubb (Georgia)
5 Derrius Guice (LSU)
6 Bryce Love (Stanford)
7 Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
8 Royce Freeman (Oregon)

(**Edit** One of the comments noted Georgia’s other running back Sony Michel. I’m a fan — but haven’t had the opportunity to study his play comprehensively yet.)

The more I’ve watched of Harris and Johnson, the more I’ve liked.

I’ve posted a couple of new ‘highlights’ videos at the end of this article but I wanted to bring further attention to the two videos below. Pass-pro is important for a rookie, it’s often the one thing that stops a young running back getting on the field. Now look at how Harris and Johnson handle their duties in protection:

(Clips 1-4 below are Harris & Johnson, the final clip is a whiff by Bo Scarborough):

I’m going to join Kenny for a Field Gulls podcast later today and I’m sure we’ll talk about running backs, not to mention the Seahawks vs Eagles this weekend.

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Monday notes: Life without Kam Chancellor

Monday, November 27th, 2017

This wasn’t supposed to be the way it ended.

Kam Chancellor, so often referred to on this blog as Seattle’s answer to Ray Lewis, might’ve played his last snap in the NFL. Unlike Lewis, he wouldn’t be bowing out with a Super Bowl ring. He’d not really be leaving on his terms either.

It’s a double disappointment when you consider Cliff Avril may also be retiring for a similar issue. What a crushing anti-climax for Seahawks fans and the players involved.

Still, nothing has been confirmed. While Kam might be leaning towards a new direction today, tomorrow, next week or even in the new year — who knows how he’ll feel in a couple of months. Will the desire to go out on a positive note be overwhelming? That will depend on how serious the injury is. Nobody should expect Chancellor to be reckless. But just as time was a healer for Earl Thomas a year ago, that could also be the case for Kam.

If this is the end, the Seahawks wisely at least prepared for the future. Delano Hill is getting the redshirt treatment — just as Chancellor experienced in 2010. He isn’t Kam but nobody is. If nothing else they have someone ready to compete for the job. They could also re-sign Bradley McDougald.

They might have to — and this speaks to a number of other positions too. With limited draft stock in 2018 they’ll do well to fill several needs. With only one pick currently in the first three rounds, they’re also going to be challenged to find impact.

It’s entirely possible, maybe even probable, that they will trade down to make up for the picks lost in the Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown trades. That would aid the situation. But they can ill-afford to create multiple holes in a roster that already has some needs.

Big free agency decisions looming

I don’t know the cap situation if Chancellor retires and what benefit (if any) Seattle is set to receive.

As Davis Hsu notes in these tweets, there are things we won’t be able to calculate for a while. We don’t even know if Chancellor is definitely going to call it a day.

If Avril retires it’ll open up $7.5m. If they cut Jeremy Lane they’ll add another $5m. They have around $9m available as a rough estimate for 2018 — although the cap could rise again to provide further relief. Cap space at about $22m seems reasonable. That could be problematic.

Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, Paul Richardson and Luke Joeckel are the big four free agents. Let’s go through each case:

— Graham has been a touchdown machine in recent weeks and finally the Seahawks have worked out a way to get the player they traded for. His chemistry with Russell Wilson is strong and the two appear close on and off the field. However, Graham just turned 31 and has been a divisive talking point among fans for some time. Do you want to make a long term commitment and can you afford the franchise tag? What kind of money is Graham going to command on the market? Early in the season it felt like this would definitely be his final year in Seattle. Now? If he leaves you’ll have to find a way to replace him and Luke Willson is a free agent too. The tight end position would suddenly be a dramatic need — and whoever came in would need to replace Graham’s recent strong production in the red zone. Do you really want to start again with that?

— Sheldon Richardson has been a nice addition so far, particularly for the run defense. His personality and character fits this team and he’s at a good age. He turns 27 on Wednesday. He hasn’t, however, added much to the interior pass rush. That might be down to scheme and Seattle’s constant desire to play the run first and foremost. Yet the hope was surely to get more than one solitary recorded sack by this point in the season. His addition was supposed to make the defense unplayable — and he’s been more good than great. It’s impossible to predict his value on the open market. His poor statistical numbers and previous character problems could take zero’s off his contract. He could also, based on talent, get a huge pay day (and teams have so much cap room to splash out now). Seattle’s outlay also plays a part. A second round pick for a one-year rental is a hefty price even if you get a third round comp pick in 2019. If his contract only gets you a fourth or a fifth round comp pick — then that’s a problem. And it wouldn’t be a good look. The other thing to consider here is the health of Malik McDowell.

— Paul Richardson has had a breakout season after finishing strongly at the end of 2016 too. He always had talent and flashed his potential even as a rookie in 2014. Injuries have been a problem in his career and that tempers what he might be worth to other teams. The receiver market is a tough one to workout. A year ago Terrelle Pryor and Alshon Jeffrey had to take one-year prove-it deals because the big money over multiple years wasn’t there. Robert Woods, however, managed to turn an underwhelming spell in Buffalo into a five-year $34m contract worth $6.8m a season. If Richardson gets offers in the $7m range it’s hard to imagine him staying in Seattle. If he leaves though are they creating a void that needs to be filled? Is Amara Darboh ready to step in? Or one of the other younger receivers? Is that a situation you feel comfortable with, considering Seattle’s new-found reliance on the passing game?

— Luke Joeckel has missed time through injury and fans mostly seem to have a negative view of how he’s played. Personally I think he’s done pretty well. The Seahawks clearly like him and have talked very positively about him this season. The O-line looks to be taking shape and with Duane Brown, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi all under contract, it’d be nice to retain some continuity in 2018. They also seem to be placing a high priority on the O-line (see: Ifedi, Pocic picks, Britt re-signing and Brown trade). So while fans might not think much of a new deal for Joeckel, the Seahawks might see it as an important move. Again though, it’s tough to work out what his value might be. He’s earning $7-8m for this season which isn’t actually that high in the current O-line market. Yet further injury issues have to be taken into consideration. The last five games are big for Joeckel.

They might not be able to keep all four but they could find a way. All four players would have to be replaced after all. And with no second or third round pick, it’ll be hard to address the current needs (EDGE, RB) sufficiently without then needing to add TE, WR and G into the equation.

A reminder — the Seahawks are not built like the Pats

It’s very easy to look at the Patriots and wonder why the Seahawks with all their talent can’t emulate their relentless run. The two teams are just built so differently. And in reality, there’s no peer for New England, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

When Carroll arrived many people looked at the Pittsburgh Steelers as the model. A tough, hard-nosed, physical team that won consistently. If we consider the Seahawks as the NFC’s answer to Pittsburgh, then you might look at their current 7-4 season a little differently.

Here’s every Pittsburgh season since they drafted Ben Roethlisberger:

11-5 (won Super Bowl)
12-4 (won Super Bowl)
12-4 (lost Super Bowl)

Russell Wilson is currently in his sixth season with the team. After six years Roethlisberger and the Steelers had been to two Super Bowls, same as the Seahawks. By the end of year seven he’d been to three with a 2-1 record. That’s still possible for Wilson too.

Roethlisberger’s Steelers won 65 regular season games in their first six seasons. Wilson currently has 63 wins — with five more games to play in 2017.

This is Pittsburgh’s 14th season with Roethlisberger now. As you can see, they’ve had some ups and downs. They’ve had a few 8-8 seasons.

Yet nobody would say this period of Steelers’ football has been mediocre or suggest that they’ve necessarily underachieved. One more Championship would probably cap it off. That could happen this year.

Any upstart team as the Seahawks were when Pete Carroll arrived would look at Pittsburgh and say ‘we’d like to emulate their success‘.

They’re some way to achieving that, having accomplished a roster rebuild similar to those Steeler teams in the early Roethlisberger years.

When you start to view the Seahawks as a blood relative of the Steelers (sorry, I know that will be tough for some to read) instead of comparing them to the Patriots — it might make their current form more tolerable.

The Steelers have gone through some pretty significant makeovers over time. When Roethlisberger was drafted they were a fearsome defensive behemoth with a tough running game. Classic AFC North football. As the likes of Joey Porter, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu aged, however, they shifted. They built around Roethlisberger.

Now they’re all about Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

This doesn’t have to be the way the Seahawks go but if they’re forced to lose some of their big defensive stars in the future, it’s an option. That could be why the O-line suddenly gets more investment. It could be why they retain someone like Paul Richardson and/or Jimmy Graham. We might see future high-ish picks spent on the offensive skill positions (eg running back in 2018).

It’s something to consider, anyway.

They may also have some down years in the future. Some 9-7 or 8-8 type seasons. Just like Pittsburgh.

But if by year 14 Russell Wilson has a record similar to Roethlisberger’s — another Championship with an average of 10.4 wins a season — is anyone really going to complain?

Texas left tackle turning pro

It’s shaping up to be another rough year at offensive tackle in the draft. Texas’ Connor Williams is taking advantage, announcing he’ll head to the NFL and miss his teams Bowl game.

Williams is one of the few prospects likely to be drafted highly as a blindside blocker, so the move makes sense.

Here’s a statement from Williams:

β€œMy family and I have decided it is my best interest to forgo the bowl game and my senior season to begin preparing for my professional football career. One of the reasons I worked so hard to come back from my injury was to help the team reach its goal of playing in a bowl game, and I’m proud we were able to accomplish that. I will continue to support my teammates in their efforts to finish the season strong.”

Nobody should criticise him for skipping the Bowl game either. Remember what happened to Jaylon Smith?

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Niners, move to 7-4

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

If ever there was a game to sum up Seattle’s season so far, this was it.

The sloppy first half on offense, the toiling running game, keeping an inferior opponent alive, a vastly superior second half and a Jimmy Graham redzone touchdown. All features to perfectly illustrate the 2017 campaign.

The good news is it’s a win — and at least something to take into a difficult looking meeting against Philadelphia where the Seahawks are looking to avoid a third straight home loss.

If they’re going to become a dark horse in the playoffs, however, this type of football offers little cause for optimism.

A slow start in a game like this against a one-win team isn’t costly. We saw what a rough start meant in the last game though. Atlanta were spotted 14 early points in a contest lost by three on a missed field goal at the end. If the Seahawks have to go to New Orleans or Minnesota or Philadelphia in the post-season (providing they get there), such a lethargic opening could be lethal.

Eddie Lacy had 17 carries for 46 yards — an average of 2.7 YPC. The Niners came into the game with the 30th ranked rushing defense. J.D. McKissic offered more of a spark on his five carries (22 yards) but still seems more of a compliment than a feature.

It’s quite something that a team that used to be able to run the ball with relative ease is now left praying for Mike Davis, a player recently plucked from the practise squad, to get healthy and be the saviour.

Thomas Rawls, from memory, had one snap. He’s officially in the Christine Michael commemorative doghouse.

Thank goodness it’s a deep draft for running backs in 2018.

The pressure on Russell Wilson these days isn’t so much from the opponent as it is the situation. Seattle is completely dependant on their quarterback on offense. In the last four games he has four interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He had four picks in his previous seven games.

It’s indicative of his need to do a bit more. He’s throwing more passes, needing to take more chances early. His second pass of the game against Atlanta was a bad pick. His first pass against the Niners was a bad pick.

Not that this is a cause to criticise Wilson. He’s keeping Seattle’s season alive. And in this one against San Francisco he took things over in the second half with another great performance.

There are two things he can rely on at the moment that are new and of real benefit.

Jimmy Graham is the touchdown machine in the red zone this team traded for. It’s taken three seasons and perhaps a removal of the internal desire to make Graham a ‘complete’ TE — but this is the player Seattle wanted and needed.

Do not underestimate this sudden and regular impact. The Seahawks had a horrible red zone offense for a long time — even with Marshawn Lynch on the roster. Now the Wilson-to-Graham hook-up is almost automatic. They’re scheming to isolate Graham and taking the 1-on-1 opportunities. He has eight touchdowns in seven games.

They’re also using Wilson as a runner smartly in the red zone. He has rushing scores in back-to-back games too on the kind of run-pass option that would’ve looked great in the Super Bow….. let’s not go there.

Graham’s production is a huge boon for a team that simply cannot run the football for a score. Seattle has one rushing touchdown this season from a running back. It’s an incredible stat.

The other big plus on offense is Paul Richardson. He’s become a consistent, dynamic weapon. When you consider the Seahawks will always be able to rely on Doug Baldwin too — Wilson has some options now.

Richardson is finally healthy and showing why he cost a second round pick in 2014. Both he and Justin Britt have flourished over time — changing the complexion of how that draft class will be viewed.

Graham and Richardson are both upcoming free agents. Considering how discombobulated other parts of the offense are currently, you almost feel like it’d be a huge step backwards if either player walked in the off-season.

There were some other good moments today. Nick Vannett got his first touchdown. Bobby Wagner was again exceptional and possibly only second to Calais Campbell in the DPOY race. Marcus Smith and the backup D-line players stepped up.

With the Rams, Falcons and Panthers winning — not much changed today in terms of the playoff race. Seattle’s margin for error is tiny. With the Rams going to Arizona next week (a team they hammered in London a few weeks ago) — the Seahawks likely need to beat the Eagles to stay in touch.

It’s not just about that, however. The Seahawks also need a win to prove a point. They need to beat the best team in the NFC. They need to avoid losing an embarrassing third straight game at home. That’s about pride more than anything else. Seattle losing three in a row at the Clink? Shouldn’t happen. Not with this team. They need to stop it happening next week.

If they defeat the Eagles (and it’s a big ‘if’) it will ignite the season and provide fresh life to a fan base badly needing hope and a reason to believe this can still be a year where the Seahawks challenge.

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Auburn handle Alabama — thoughts on the game

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Auburn are the most fun team to watch in college football and it isn’t close. Physical, tough, enjoying themselves and making big plays. They’ve beaten Georgia and Alabama in back to back weeks, both #1 teams at the time. They didn’t just beat them either — they hammered both.

Alabama couldn’t convert third downs, were disjointed on offense and tried a bit of everything. Instead of doing what they’re good at and sticking to their identity, they played too much to the opponent. After watching Georgia toil and struggle to run up the gut, they didn’t want to take on Auburn’s D-line. Alabama, fearful of an opponents D-line? When’s the last time that happened?

What we saw was a gameplan with no fluidity or focus. A quarterback draw here, try every running back on a drive without letting any of them settle. Short passes, bootlegs, deep shots. Alabama, known for being so tough and physical up front, avoided that type of game.

With 12:48 remaining and with Auburn suddenly leading 26-14, Damien Harris had only four (!!!) rushes for 43 yards and two catches for 20. 63 yards on six touches. And yet they kept spelling him. At this same point another running back Josh Jacobs had taken one more carry — recording 5 for 21.

Harris came into the game averaging 8.2 YPC. He could’ve helped them control this thing, allowing their mobile quarterback to roam around and improvise. Instead it felt like Alabama overthought this one. Harris ended with only six carries for 51 yards as a runner and was severely underused.

Auburn, on the other hand, did exactly what they’ve been doing for weeks. They ran the ball with Kerryon Johnson over and over again. The great thing about Johnson is he always seems to get four yards. He’s tough to stop, wore down even Alabama’s D-line and kept his feet moving. He is special.

Don’t forget — Leonard Fournette struggled to run on Alabama in back-to-back years. Few runners have success against their rotating front seven. Yes they were missing linebackers to injury — but the studs on the D-line were present. This was a very impressive performance.

The commitment to the run provided balance and developing quarterback Jarrett Stidham showed off pro-talent with a number of accurate throws and a decent amount of mobility.

They sprinkled in just enough of the gimmick plays but this worked because they had the orthodox balance. Johnson threw a jump-ball for a touchdown and ran occasionally in the wildcat. They didn’t overdo it.

On the other side of the ball, while benefitting from Alabama outthinking themselves, Auburn’s D-line played like their lives depended on a victory. I almost added edge rusher Jeff Holland to my watch-list this week. Every single game he turns up. He’s harassing the QB. He’s making plays. He doesn’t look like a freaky athlete but he’s always there. He’s not the only one — Auburn have yet again put together an ultra-talented D-line and they were the best defensive unit on the field in this one, even against Alabama’s laundry list of five-star recruits.

Back to Johnson — he is such a good player. Physical when he needs to be, patient and capable of letting the gaps develop. He’s a factor in the passing game and he’ll block in protection (more on that in a moment). He won’t win the Heisman but there might not be a more important, crucial individual player in college football.

He left the game with an odd injury at the end. It wasn’t clear which part of his body was hurt. Hopefully it’s not bad news. It could’ve been a shoulder issue or a stinger. Fingers crossed he doesn’t miss the re-match with Georgia next week.

He finished with 30 runs for 104 yards, three catches for 21 yards and he had two touchdowns including a TD pass.

Johnson was absolutely hammered by Ronnie Harrison just before he scored his rushing touchdown. That could’ve led to some kind of injury. Harrison delivered two crunching hits during the game and made some really crucial tackles. He flashed on a tough day for Alabama. Harrison is a very interesting prospect.

I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about pass protection. It’s important. It’s really the one thing that’ll keep a rookie running back off the field.

Here’s a series of protection clips involving Harris, Johnson and Bo Scarborough with a breakdown underneath:

Clip 1 — Damien Harris absolutely unloads on a rushing linebacker and dumps him on the ground. Harris seems to enjoy pass pro and this another great example. He’s a bad ass. This block allows the QB to make a key gain on the ground.

Clip 2 — Kerryon Johnson takes on an edge rusher here and does a really good job stalling him. There aren’t many RB’s who can block a defensive end like this.

Clip 3 — Ronnie Harrison blitzed up the middle. Kerryon Johnson wipes him out, sending him to the turf. Huge hit. It allows the QB to convert a big third down.

Clip 4 — Minkah Fitzpatrick blitzes tentatively off the edge. Johnson takes him out of the play allowing the quarterback to convert another third down.

Clip 5 — In a similar situation to Damien Harris’ block in the first clip, Bo Scarborough gets absolutely nowhere near blocking anyone and the quarterback is sacked.

Little things like this matter. And while nationally Bo Scarborough is the more well known player — he isn’t the better player either as a running back or doing the little things that go with making a complete player.

I didn’t intend to focus on pass-pro in this game. It was just noticeable with Harris and Johnson in a big, positive way. Johnson in fairness also had a whiff against Fitzpatrick on a blitz not highlighted here — but there’s plenty to work with.

Harris and Johnson, if they declare, might be the next two best running backs available after Saquon Barkley. They warrant a lot more hype for 2018.

The good news for Seahawks fans is this going to be potentially a deep draft for running backs.

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Updated 2018 watch list: November 22nd

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

#1 Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
His production stalled for a while but that’s as much on Penn State as it is Barkley. He’s an explosive athlete and an incredible playmaker, destined for greatness. Puts points on the board as a runner, receiver and returner. Will join Fournette, Gurley and Elliott in a growing group of young studs at RB.

#2 Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Only knocked off top spot by Saquon Barkley. Nelson is nasty at the LOS with the mobility and desire to pull and get to the second level. Just a fantastic football player. Guards go early if they’re good enough — Nelson certainly is.

#3 Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Redshirt sophomore so might not declare but Settle is ready for the NFL. He’s 6-3 and 328lbs but moves like a 290lber. Fantastic pass rusher with the size to work against the run. Tremendous prospect.

#4 Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
There are question marks about his personality but on the field Rosen is a surgeon. He ticks every box — accuracy, poise, ability to make every throw. His talent is worth taking a chance on in the top five.

#5 Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Sensational athlete with great bloodlines (Nick Chubb’s cousin). Carries 275lbs superbly, can round the tackle with speed but also sets the edge vs the run. Lively personality and big production at NC State.

#6 Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Sheldon Richardson type — a compact, energetic D-tackle. Wilkins isn’t Aaron Donald or Ndamukong Suh as a pass rusher but he just doesn’t stop. His motor keeps revving, making plays sideline-to-sideline and in pursuit.

#7 Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Having a great year for Alabama. Capable of dropping down and covering the slot, physical enough to play man-to-man but with the range to play as a roaming safety. Doesn’t give up any plays. Not outspoken, a reserved leader.

#8 Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Jackson compares favourably to Michael Vick and there aren’t enough good QB’s in the league to ignore a talent like that. He’s shown development as a passer. It’s been Jackson vs the world this year at Louisville.

#9 Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Rare nose tackle. Watch him live and he’ll wow you with how much ground he covers. Stout against the run, plugs holes but shifts around the field in pursuit like a much lighter D-liner. Cornerstone defender.

#10 Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Shaq Lawson type who could play five technique or power end. 7.5 sacks this season and plays bigger than his listed 6-5 and 260lbs. Might not be a sack specialist at the next level but will tie up an end.

#11 Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
Sparky character and won’t appeal to the stuffed-shirt element in the NFL. More open minded coaches and scouts will see a playmaker who is adept at improvisation and keeping things alive. Accurate, in control. Will be very good.

#12 Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Underrated back who is averaging 8.2 YPC this year. Much better athlete than people realise — his Nike SPARQ combine matched Bryce Love’s despite carrying a lot more weight. A bit stiff stretching plays out wide but he’s fantastic at breaking off big north-south runs given a crease. Great in pass pro too.

#13 Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
Florida’s season has collapsed and it’s tempered some of the attention their only genuine pro-prospect deserves. Bryan can play inside or out and wins with power and speed. Fun player to watch and his best football should come at the next level.

#14 Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Bradley Chubb’s cousin and he’s basically a 225lbs version of the NC State pass rusher. Fantastic athlete pre-injury but looking back to his best now. Very serious individual. If the medical checks are fine and he matches his 2013 Nike SPARQ performance at the combine, he’ll go very early.

#15 Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
Another really underrated running back. Johnson has taken Auburn to a new level with his tough running style. He’s a great athlete once touted to play defensive back. Long legged runner similar to Chris Carson. Has a similar running style. One to watch this weekend in the Iron Bowl vs Alabama.

#16 Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Completely shut down Harold Landry when Notre Dame faced Boston College. That tape will be poured over by scouts and coaches in the off-season. Maybe won’t show to be a fantastic athlete at the combine but that wasn’t a problem for Taylor Decker.

#17 Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
In a fairly middling season for Michigan, Hurst has been a real bright spot. Wins as a three technique and consistently disruptive. These types of players aren’t readily available and that should ensure Hurst goes early.

#18 Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
Miller is having a fantastic year and has a little OBJ to his playing style. A yardage and touchdown machine, Miller is appointment viewing. Fantastic backstory will appeal to teams — Miller has shown tremendous grit as a former walk-on.

#19 Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Not a million miles behind Quenton Nelson. Price could play guard or center at the next level. Tenacious blocker who loves to get to the second level. Both Nelson and Price are aggressive, active and have the kind of mean streak teams will love.

#20 Connor Williams (T, Texas)
He’s back from his knee injury and has a chance to end the season strongly. There aren’t enough good left tackles in the league so Williams has a shot to go very early if he declares for the 2018 draft. Very athletic.

#21 Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Guice’s 2016 tape carried a lot of excitement. He was lightning quick, physical and explosive. 2017 has been a bit of a disappointment despite a couple of really good games (eg Ole Miss). Guice is good but is he that much better than Damien Harris?

#22 Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Sutton’s frame reminds you of Dez Bryant. SMU haven’t had a great year and it’s maybe dented his stock. His talent and potential is unquestionable though and he could provide real value in a draft class light on good receivers.

#23 Derwin James (S, Florida State)
When James squares up a ball carrier and delivers a jarring hit, you get excited. Sadly there are occasions where he’s covering the open field and looks so stiff, you wonder if he has more limitations that people thought after a strong freshman campaign (and an injury-hit sophomore season).

#24 Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Nowhere near as exciting as Jarrad Davis a year ago but Smith roams around the field as a tone-setting inside linebacker. Not a big playmaker but rarely puts a foot wrong. Has shown up as much as anyone when watching Georgia’s defense this year.

#25 Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
The latest big-production running back at Stanford. He’s smaller, listed at only 5-10 and 196lbs. He only ran a 4.47 at the Nike combine while weighing in the 180’s. There’s no doubting he’s an excellent player and a legit Heisman candidate — but will he be less of an X-factor at the next level?

Note — Sam Darnold (QB, USC) and Trey Adams (T, Washington) were not included. Numerous reports suggest both players will likely opt against turning pro in 2018.

Value prospects to keep an eye on

Javon Wims (WR, Georgia)
Georgia has a knack of producing big, athletic pass catchers who fly under the radar until the combine. Wims is 6-4 and 215lbs and has become a go-to target for the Bulldog’s freshman QB. High-points the ball, makes plays.

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
Fits Seattle’s size profile at running back. Physical and fast — Penny is a productive return man and could be a diamond for someone in the second or third round.

Hercules Mata’afa (DE, Washington State)
Mata’afa is a pretty unique player, rushing inside at just 6-2 and 252lbs. A lack of size could hamper his draft credentials — but he’s just such an active pass rusher, he’s worth a shot at the next level.

Marquise Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Haynes stood out in 2016 but has been lost in the wash with Ole Miss regressing under a messy coaching situation. He has 7.5 sacks. A lack of size will put off some — but he’s a playmaker.

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Like Haynes, Nnadi is suffering a bit because FSU are having a down year. He’s stout against the run but offers enough pass rush to be a Brandon Mebane-style one technique in the NFL. Big potential.

Josey Jewell (LB, Iowa)
Not the biggest or the fastest player — but Jewell is a hard-hitting, passionate linebacker who plays with his hair on fire every week. The type of guy you want on the roster and at the very least will provide some special teams value early in his career.

Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
Phillips is getting some nice publicity after a strong year. There’s even been some first round talk but that’s a bit rich for me. Henry Anderson was bigger and a fantastic athlete but he only went in round three in 2015. Phillips might go in a similar range.

Greg Gaines (DT, Washington)
I’m a huge Greg Gaines fan. Watching him next to Vita Vea is a joy for anyone who loves watching good run defense. He’s also more active than he gets credit for as a pass rusher. Gaines is a very intriguing prospect and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the NFL.

A few further thoughts after the Atlanta game

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

It’s often useful to reflect back on a game after a period of thought. A day is sometimes a good benchmark.

The defeat to the Falcons was damaging and could cost the Seahawks a playoff berth. The two home losses to Washington and Atlanta were avoidable and mistake-ridden. The margin for error is so small now — and yet this is a team that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way all season.

They can still win the NFC West though — and that has to be the focus now for the fan base. Whatever hopes you had of a #1 or #2 seed and a 2013-14 type post-season run are likely evaporated. Yet the Seahawks can still make the playoffs. And in a year where the NFC is wide open with weird, strange things occurring — you just don’t know what’ll happen if you get there.

Here are LA’s remaining games:

New Orleans (H)
Arizona (A)
Philadelphia (H)
Seattle (A)
Tennessee (A)
San Francisco (H)

That’s a tough run. And with the Seahawks owning the tiebreaker over Los Angeles, staying alive until the game at Century Link the week before Christmas has to be the target.

Make that contest, if possible, a kind of NFC West ‘Championship’ game.

And ‘staying alive’ is very much what Seattle needs to do here. This has been an arduous season. The injuries, the mistakes, the slow starts, the penalties. So much adversity, so many self-inflicted wounds.

For the first time in a long time, there’s also a fair amount of uncertainty. What does the future hold for some of the ageing veterans on the roster? Are we seeing the slow death of this Championship window? Are we witnessing something akin to the 2007 season under Holmgren? What happens if the Seahawks don’t make the playoffs? How much longer does Pete Carroll want to do this?

Were the aggressive trades for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown indicative of a team leaving no stone unturned, always looking to add talent? Or was it about ringing the last few drops out of this current group before an inevitable changing of the guard, possibly in 2018 or 2019?

Fans can be forgiven for feeling quite insecure at the moment because there are so many things to consider and contemplate. It’s unnerving. There’s not an expiry date on the bottom of the roster, you can’t just check how long you’ve got.

We also know tough decisions are forthcoming. Do they almost have to find a way to keep Jimmy Graham now? He’s become an automatic go-to solution in the red zone. It’s taken three years — but he’s now the player they traded for. A touchdown machine.

If they keep Graham — and considering they’ve also added Duane Brown’s contract now — is there room to re-sign Sheldon Richardson? Will they move on from some of the ageing players regardless and be bold and aggressive to start the roster re-shape?

And with limited draft stock in 2018, what positions will they prioritise?

They’re approaching the most significant off-season in a long time.

These are things you don’t really want to think about at the moment — but they creep into your mind. Because nobody expected this group to be struggling to make the playoffs.

In two weeks time they could be 8-4 and we’ll be talking about playoff seedings again. In two weeks time we could also be having a conversation about whether Derwin James could be a possible Kam Chancellor replacement.

Hopefully it’s the playoff conversation — because nobody wants to see this unbeatable era of Seahawks football drift towards a sad conclusion.

Keep battling. Keep trying to stay alive in the NFC West. Rather than hope the likes of New Orleans and Philadelphia can be caught in the NFC — you instead root for them against the Rams.

Limit the mistakes and the penalties, give Russell Wilson the best shot to win you a few games.

Get a win next week and play the Eagles with a point to prove.

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