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Curtis Allen’s week seven watch points (vs Saints)

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

Sean Peyton has always excelled at helping his team through stretches of games when Saints’ star players get hurt but this year he has outdone himself.

The team has been without Michael Thomas, Kwon Alexander, Marcus Davenport, Will Lutz and Brian Poole due to injury and David Onyemata to a suspension.

This after losing Drew Brees, Jared Cook, Latavius Murray, Emmanuel Sanders, Alex Anzalone and Sheldon Rankins in the offseason.

A hurricane chased them from their practice facilities and their own stadium for their home opener.

The fact that Peyton has them at 3-2 and a favourite to beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday night stands as a sparkling testament to the job he has done this year so far. He has the Saints playing extremely clean football, with the fifth fewest penalties and the fifth best turnover differential in the league.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are drifting at 2-4 and are fighting off questions about alarm bells ringing and the season being in the balance. The team has back-to-back primetime games – something considered unfathomable in years past – and looking at a potential third in a row with Russell Wilson still on injured reserve.

The season is quickly slipping into a very difficult place.

Pete Carroll knows this is the case and his language is starting to get more desperate six games in.  Monday he said this:

“As it is always the case, postponing judgement is a powerful tool if you have it and that’s what we have to do,” Carroll said. “We gotta take it one game at a time just like we know how to do, but we have to really stay focused and postpone what the story is going to be. We know that’s the truth but it’s hard to do, and so that’s what we are going to go about doing. So it’s a challenge, I gotta lead the charge, and I’m gonna kick ass on that.”

The defense made commendable progress last week against Pittsburgh but it was not enough to secure a win.

The offense had good stretches but seemed handcuffed by the play-calling at times.

A 3-4 record looks so much better than 2-5, particularly in this division. The Seahawks must find a way to win on Monday in order to get back into the playoff picture.

How can the Seahawks get there?

Contain Alvin Kamara

This has been the priority when attempting to defend against the Saints offense in recent times.

But this season, with Drew Brees gone and several top players injured, the Saints are leaning on Kamara like never before.

He is responsible for an incredible 48% of the team’s total touches. Even when Kamara is not getting the ball, Peyton smartly has him as a decoy in play action or as a swing pass safety valve to draw a defender out to him and open up the middle.

Kamara has 109 touches so far in 2021. The Saints player with the next most touches? Running Back Tony Jones with only 23.

So, when we say if you stop Kamara, you will greatly hinder the Saints offense, we are saying it in the most literal way possible.

The primary way to contain him? 

Tackle him on the first try. Alvin Kamara is the king of broken tackles. Since 2018, he has 113 broken tackles, easily the most of any player in the NFL. Nick Chubb is a distant second with 96. 

(Chris Carson is fourth with 82)

Of course, that is easier said than done. Kamara has legendary balance and agility and the scheme Peyton puts him in contributes to him having good angles in order to present a slim target to tacklers.

The Seahawks got a front row seat to the show in Week 3 of 2019. Kamara had a stunning eight broken tackles in that game alone. How did he do it? His skill was absolutely a factor but look at the tape and count how many Seahawk tacklers tried to just knock him over or otherwise arm tackle him high, rather than follow the ‘rugby style’ form of tackling at the waist that Pete Carroll has preached so heavily:

Kamara ended up with 161 total yards and two touchdowns in that game. More importantly, he had 50 yards after contact in the rushing game and 102 yards after the catch in the receiving game.

The vast majority of Kamara’s yards came after the catch or after first contact. Inexcusable.

The linebackers had a terrible day and the poor tackling was noted by Pete Carroll in his opening comments after the game. Mychal Kendricks was particularly bad but the highlight clip shows bad tackling attempts by K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner as well.

There is no excuse for not playing technically sound football at this level. Here’s hoping the Seahawks put a special emphasis on it this week in practice.

Kamara is going to his touches and his yards. That is just a fact beyond the Seahawks’ control. What they can control, is how many yards he gets after he encounters a defender.

If they can keep him in check, they will have a terrific chance at winning this game.

The defensive line must step up

This is not a key that is particular to this game against the Saints. It’s just something the Seahawks badly need to improve upon as quickly as possible.

The defensive line, once touted by many as a deep reservoir of talent that could really be a team strength in 2021, has proven to be a liability so far this season overall.

The Seahawks have recorded ten sacks, good for a tie at 26th overall in the NFL so far this season.

Two of those sacks belong to linebackers (Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks).

That is an optimistic position right now. Why? Two of the teams behind them in total sacks have only played five games to the Seahawks’ six games so far. The Seahawks have a full extra game of non-productive play added to their total.

They are also 30th in rushing defense — giving up an average of 140.8 yards per game. They have yet to hold an opponent under 100 yards rushing in a game this year.

What was once thought of as a middling defensive line has been one of the NFL’s worst so far this season. Have a look at this simple chart:

Other than Darrell Taylor’s production efficiency, there is not much to like.

Alton Robinson seems to be held back despite some very solid play so far. He got one snap on defense against the Steelers and Pete Carroll confirmed it was not due to injury. He gave a bland answer when asked why.

Something has got to give at this point. Either the team must scheme better, coach better, redistribute their snaps to the young talent and live with the occasional blown play, or acquire some new talent if they want to compete.

It might benefit the team in the short term to start heavily blitzing again. They cannot get pressure and their TFL numbers indicate they are not getting into the opponents’ backfield very much.

The defense seems to be passively waiting for the opposing offense to make their move and then reacting to it. And rather badly, at that.

When you are playing Sean Peyton, that strategy is an open invitation to be picked apart. He is a master of finding space for his players and letting them display their skillsets.

You just know that Peyton has seen the Seahawks deploying Benson Mayowa and Carlos Dunlap against running backs in coverage. That is a massive mismatch when Alvin Kamara is on the field.

Blitzing early and often disrupts those potential plays and does not allow Peyton to build a theme or rhythm. If he does, he can connect some further wrinkles later in the game to take advantage of the patterns he has built.

What’s more, Jameis Winston is not good at all against the blitz. So far this year, he has an 85-quarterback rating off a 55% completion rate when blitzed.

Note the disparity in Winston’s numbers when under pressure:

As you can see, he still panics and misses wide open receivers when under pressure.

Give him time and he can be very effective.

Just like last week, the Seahawks are facing a team with a middling quarterback and a potent rushing attack. The defense could have won the game for them last week. They can this week as well. They must be better in order to do so.

Play your game on offense

The Saints have been getting some shine in the press for their defense so far this year. It is not as good as it is made out to be. The Seahawks need to understand this in their game planning.

The New Orleans rush defense is #2 in the NFL with 79 yards per game allowed.

Let’s give that number a little perspective.

In Week One against the Packers they were able to jump out to a big lead, forcing the Packers to abandon the running game. Aaron Jones, one of the game’s best running backs, only got five rushing attempts. As a team they only ran the ball 15 times.

In Week Two against the Panthers and Week 4 against the Giants, those teams used the run with their feature backs to set up the pass. Christian McCaffrey burned them for 65 yards on 5 catches and Saquon Barkley got 74 yards on 5 catches and a touchdown. He also ran right up the gut for six yards in overtime for the winning touchdown.

In Week 3 the Patriots only ran the ball 17 times.

The sample size, quality of opponent, game strategy and results in other areas are beefing up the Saints’ run defense numbers.

The Seahawks can run on them. It should not be curtailed in this week’s game plan out of fear of their tremendous defense.

How about in pass defense? They are 23rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed at 275 yards per game.

Their pass rush has been truly awful – even worse than the Seahawks’.  They have only nine sacks and 55 pressures so far this season.

Geno Smith will have time in the pocket to make his reads.

Daniel Jones had enough time in the pocket to burn them for 402 yards with an amazing twelve explosive pass plays.

Their starting defensive backfield averaged a 115-quarterback rating in that game. Star corner Marcus Lattimore surrendered a 149 passer rating in coverage.

The Saints have yet to face a group as formidable as the Seahawk receivers and tight ends.

So while the Saints should get some credit for their good numbers so far, a closer look shows that this defense is not as formidable as it appears.

Win in the red zone

Two stunning stats:

The Saints are #1 in the NFL on offense in the red zone, scoring a touchdown a fantastic 92.86% of their times in the red zone.

They are also #1 in the NFL on defense in the red zone, only allowing a touchdown on 35.71% of opponent trips in the end zone.

The Seahawks actually match up very well. They are #4 on offense and #7 on defense.

It is very likely the winner in the red zone wins the game.

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Reporter tentatively connects Aaron Rodgers to Seattle

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

Could Aaron Rodgers end up in Seattle?

CBS’s Jason La Canfora has written an article today suggesting as many as half the teams in the league could make a quarterback change in the off-season.

Inevitably, the future of Russell Wilson (along with veterans Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson) is brought up.

Here’s La Canfora on the Seahawks…

If they do bite the bullet and assess the myriad roster holes and embrace a rebuild of sorts, trading Wilson is the only way to go. He isn’t going to be doing an extension with two years on his deal, and 2022 would be the time to deal him. They might end up getting the next guy in that trade, and GM John Schneider has deep ties to the Packers and Rodgers, FWIW. My gut says Wilson is elsewhere in 2022.

It reads as speculation or an educated guess only at this point. It’s certainly not a report. It’s far too early for any of that.

It might also be a case of 2+2=5 here based solely on John Schneider’s previous gig in Green Bay.

I think it’s unlikely, personally. The idea of Rodgers coming to play in Seattle — a team he has actively enjoyed beating handsomely in Lambeau, while suffering multiple gut-wrenching losses at Lumen Field — is fanciful.

It feels like an ill fit. Rodgers, to me, is more likely to end up in Pittsburgh or Denver.

If Pete Carroll remained in Seattle, it’s also practically impossible to imagine he and Rodgers meshing. The quarterback is unlikely to want to play ‘Pete ball’. The very public way he’s handled his issues with Green Bay are hardly likely to be coveted by Carroll either, months after having to deal with his own QB saga.

That said, as things stand, I think Carroll will end his tenure in Seattle at the end of the season. So the possibility of any deal like this would depend on the next iteration of the Seahawks.

If Schneider stays as GM, I think it’s likely Wilson will be dealt. I think he’s had enough of Mark Rodgers. I think his meeting in North Dakota with Chicago’s Ryan Pace was indicative of a GM embracing the chance to move on, with Carroll reportedly rejecting the deal he presented after those talks.

In this scenario, it perhaps makes a Rodgers trade more likely. Depending on who he appoints as coach and the strength of Schneider’s relationship with Rodgers.

Whether Wilson fancies a return to Wisconsin in a swap deal, who knows? But it’s plausible he could go somewhere else (New Orleans? New York Giants? Philadelphia?) and the stock could be used on Rodgers.

If Schneider and Carroll both depart, I suspect a more likely plan would be to build around Wilson — with the incumbent franchise QB having a big say in who is appointed.

Either way, it’s clear change is coming to the Seahawks from next year. We won’t be watching another season of Carroll, Schneider and Wilson together — short of a miraculous turnaround this year that ends with a deep, successful playoff run.

It’s going to be an either/or situation. Carroll and/or Schneider or Wilson.

When La Canfora says his gut says Wilson plays elsewhere, it’s worth noting he was the first one to touch on the possibility of Wilson wanting out at the end of last season. He reported that at the Super Bowl. Mark Rodgers has his ear.

In March, La Canfora also said the following:

“A contentious offseason between player and team has moved the camps further apart, and done nothing to quell the superstar quarterback’s reservations about where the franchise is headed and how well he will be incubated from future sacks and beatings.”

That’s on top of all the other stuff, such as Jay Glazer and Greg Olsen saying what they did last week, or Tony Pauline reporting both the Seahawks and Wilson are ready to part ways it’s just a matter of timing, or the infamous Adam Schefter tweet on potential trade destinations (which, I suspect, was partly motivated by an Athletic article that heavily leaned on team sources).

As noted in my draft piece from Monday — it’s a horrendous quarterback draft class in 2022. So if the decision is made to part with Wilson in the off-season, getting a proven quality starter is an absolute must.

If Schneider takes the keys from Carroll in the off-season, a 38-year-old Rodgers would buy him a few years with a competitive team while he waits for college football to deliver some better long term options.

If you’re wondering what direction I’d go in for 2022, here’s my own personal plan of action for the next off-season.

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An early look at the 2022 NFL draft class

Monday, October 18th, 2021

There’s no sugar-coating this. It’s not looking great for next years draft.

Over the weekend I saw a tweet commenting that the Eagles could, realistically, end up with three top-10 picks in 2022 after smart trades with Miami and Indianapolis.

Yet as we sit here today it’s hard to work out who’d actually be worth selecting.

Currently I’ve only got nine players on a list of ‘possible high picks’.

That’s not nine possible top-10 picks. It’s simply nine players I’ve watched enough of to say — they could go reasonably high:

Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE, Oregon)
Derek Stingley Jr (CB, LSU)
Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)
Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan)
Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
Trevor Penning (T, Northern Iowa)
George Karlaftis (DE, Purdue)
Jalen Catolon (S, Arkansas)
Jalen Wydermyer (TE, Texas A&M)

Granted, I tend to be pretty conservative at this time of year. We’re months away from the Senior Bowl let alone the combine.

Peruse the many internet mock drafts available and you’ll see a whole bunch of other names I haven’t listed above.

Alabama tackle Evan Neal, for example, is very much on the national radar after topping Bruce Feldman’s ‘freak list’ this year. I’m not sold. Not yet anyway. I suspect he might be more of a day-two pick at this point. Yet some mocks have him not only in round one — but as a prospective #1 overall pick.

If he blows up the combine then the relentless need at the tackle position will ensure a high grade. A vertical jump of just under 23 inches at SPARQ doesn’t have me convinced he’ll be the kind of explosive tester that traditionally goes very early.

Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam is often mocked in round one. I’m alarmed by his play. Erratic isn’t a strong enough word to describe him. He has physical tools and size but there are just too many moment where he switches off. I think fast receivers will have a field day challenging him deep and you can beat him with any kind of head-nod or double-move. He’s a project based on physical traits.

The Ohio State receiver duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are often mocked in round one. I want to see them run at the combine. Olave ran a 4.73 at SPARQ and Wilson a 4.61.

It’ll be a relief to Seahawks fans that the top-10 looks so weak this year. I’ve not seen it this bad since the notorious 2013 class. If Seattle ends up gifting the New York Jets a high pick in the Jamal Adams trade, it’ll be less painful for that reason.

Hopefully with Russell Wilson returning at some stage, there’s no threat of ending up with a top-five pick and whiffing on a Thibodeaux or Stingley Jr.

That would be difficult to take.

I also think the somewhat weak upper-class of this draft also makes a prospective Wilson trade so incredibly unpalatable. Short of being able to rebuild your defense with Thibodeaux and Stingley Jr — you simply can’t justify it.

Having picks is fine. You have to turn them into good players. This doesn’t feel like a year where you want to blow things up and start again. You’d be picking from a weaker talent pool at the top end.

There is some reasonable depth though and players are emerging that warrant tracking. It’s not ideal that a position like tight end might be the deepest, rather than O-line or cornerback. Yet there are some intriguing names I want to note here today.

Admittedly I haven’t watched everyone. You may want to ask about certain high-profile players that I’m not mentioning. This is a long process and there are weeks remaining in the college football season. These are simply the players I’ve personally had a chance to observe enough to pass comment.

The quarterback group is a mess

The national media is desperate to find their next Zach Wilson to salvage this class.

There isn’t one coming.

This is not the year if you want a quarterback. There’s a black hole at the position in college football. Trade value will likely sky rocket for any veteran available.

You might think that’s a good thing if you’re in the ‘trade Russell Wilson’ camp. Here’s something to remember. If Green Bay trade Aaron Rodgers — they drafted Jordan Love in round one last year. If/when the Texans trade Deshaun Watson — well at least they added Davis Mills.

The Seahawks have neglected this position for years — failing to invest in a proper developmental backup.

Trading Wilson and looking for answers in this draft would be a surefire way to become the Lions, Broncos, WFT or any other club desperate at the position.

Ole Miss’ Matt Corral is fun to watch but he’s playing in a wide open offense and he looks every bit the kind of productive college quarterback who doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level. In the quicker game and without the massive scrambling yardage and easy throws on offer in Lane Kiffin’s system, I’m not convinced he has the physical tools to start in the NFL.

Malik Willis has major technical flaws. Spencer Rattler faces the prospect of transferring from Oklahoma to salvage his career. Sam Howell looks pretty average. Carson Strong is way overrated.

The best of the bunch might be Desmond Ridder and even he looks like a mid-round flier (although he threw some excellent passes against Notre Dame).

If ever there was a class to make you treasure what you have, this is it.

It’s a good year at tight end and possibly running back

There’s so much depth at tight end. It starts with Wydermyer at the top but then it just never ends. You also have some reasonable blocking TE’s too.

Jake Ferguson has been a blog favourite for some time. He’s a good blocker, he’s underused in the passing game and he has great short-range agility (which is important for his position). Ferguson ran a 4.15 short shuttle at SPARQ and added a 35 inch vertical. He has a very rounded game.

Cade Otton has suffered through illness and playing on a lousy team yet there’s definitely something there to develop. How he tests will be vital.

UCLA Greg Dulcich has major physical tools and high upside. If he enters the draft, keep an eye on him later on.

Derrick Deese Jr at San Jose State has NFL bloodlines and just catches everything. He’s well sized and extremely reliable. He’s a mismatch in college and you wouldn’t bet against the same thing happening at the next level. He’s a magnet for the football.

Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert has a rounded skill-set and Iowa’s Sam Laporta is very capable of making plays. There are still a whole bunch of tight ends I haven’t even watched yet. If you need help at the position, you’ll be in luck in 2022.

There isn’t the same depth at running back but there are some good options.

Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker transferred from Wake Forest and has looked fantastic this season — breaking off huge runs some of the time and getting the hard yards the rest. He’s well sized, quick and looks explosive.

Zach Charbonnet swapped Michigan for UCLA and along with Walker, has been one of the players we’ve talked about the most this season. He’s big and physical and just drags defenders for extra yardage. He can be a playmaker, he looks athletic. He’s interesting.

Jerome Ford transferred from Alabama to Cincinnati and has rocket speed, good size and appears to be a bit underrated in the media. I think his best football could come at the next level.

Brian Robinson at Alabama is the next off the Nick Saban production line. He’s highly cut and that does put some teams off but he can make plays as a runner and receiver, he’s reasonably sized and he’s having a great year.

Another name to mention is Tyrion Davis-Price at LSU. He’s a huge, explosive, dynamic runner who hasn’t been used all that much but he has a physical profile to interest teams.

Two receivers to remember

There’s just something about Josh Vann (WR, South Carolina) that makes you think ‘big time pro’. He makes so many difficult catches. He’s gritty and competes. He can separate. The Gamecocks are good at developing receivers and Vann is the latest.

He might be competing with Arkansas’ Treylon Burks to be the top receiver in this draft. They don’t get as much hype as the Ohio State pair but I was extremely impressed when watching both.

Burks has been making highlight grabs all season.

Some players to monitor in the trenches

I think Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa) is overrated by ‘Draft Twitter’. He’s become their golden goose. He’s a good player who could even land in round one. He’s very athletic and if he tests well, could go as early as Garrett Bradbury. I worry about his power and ability to drive off the ball when he’s not on the move. Could he be bullied at the next level?

Oregon center Alex Forsyth is one to monitor as is Penn State tackle Rasheed Walker. Both are very capable of landing in the top-50.

On the other side of the ball, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson has really created an impression this year as a dynamic edge. He has 6.5 sacks and if he tests well, could easily be a top-50 pick.

DeMarvin Leal at Texas A&M is big (290lbs) and starting to show what he’s capable of. His sack tally is up to 5.5 for the season and many consider him a first round prospect.

West Virginia’s Dante Stills, brother of Darius (who we interviewed this year) has four sacks and is very capable of disrupting plays up front, moving around the line and creating pressure.

Haskell Garrett (DT, Ohio State) is a blog favourite with plenty of tenacity and agility up front to work into a solid rotation. He should test well at the combine after running a 4.41 short shuttle at 300lbs at SPARQ.

USC’s Drake Jackson has a lot of the athleticism and the physical skills teams want. He’s raw and needs further development. He has three sacks, four TFL’s and an interception this year.

Devonte Wyatt is a team mate of Jordan Davis at Georgia. He benefits from playing on that incredible defense but he’s a disruptive three-technique who has impacted most of the Bulldogs’ games so far.

What’s it like in the secondary at linebacker?

A bit overrated at corner. I just can’t get excited about a lot of the names being touted to go early.

Auburn’s Roger McCreary has size and could be a really useful pick for someone. Montaric Brown has shown little flashes for Arkansas. I think Washington’s Kyler Gordon has the agility and quickness a lot of teams love. Trent McDuffie also has his admirers.

Apart from that it’s likely to be another draft where cornerbacks go far earlier than they should due to need. Teams are desperate at the position and will overdraft CB’s who have no business going as early as they do to try and fill holes.

A quick note to say how brilliant Channing Tindall and Quay Walker the two Georgia linebackers are. Larry Brooks the Tulane safety looks like a throwback player with a lot of potential. And let’s not forget long term blog favourite — Colorado’s Nate Landman. The ‘hammer’ will finally enter the NFL at the end of this season and provide immediate special teams value for someone.

Notes on the nine standouts

Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE, Oregon)
Ideally sized with the speed and quickness to threaten the edge and the physical skills to do everything else. He should be the favourite to go first overall and could be the next big game-changer at defensive end.

Derek Stingley Jr (CB, LSU)
From the minute he stepped on the field at LSU he had star potential. He has good size and ran a 4.30 forty at SPARQ, then jumped a 42 inch vertical. He could go in the top-five.

Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)
People see his listed size and expect big and physical. Hamilton’s actually a glider who covers ground quickly and plays the ball.

Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
A 6-6, 340lbs behemoth who absorbs double teams, anchors the Georgia line and yet still — at his size — provides some pass rush threat with quickness and mobility. He is going to shock people at the combine.

Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan)
An absolute monster coming off the edge — Hutchinson matches twitchy athleticism with raw determination to be a threat as a pass rusher.

Trevor Penning (T, Northern Iowa)
Penning plays with violence. I haven’t seen an offensive tackle finish blocks the way he does. He’s listed at 6-7 and 320lbs, he has an 83.5 inch wingspan and he broke NI’s school squat record with two reps at 625lbs this year.

George Karlaftis (DE, Purdue)
His sack production is a concern (five in 1.5 seasons) but you do see real flashes where he flies off the edge and his get-off is superb. At SPARQ he ran a 4.53 short shuttle.

Jalen Catolon (S, Arkansas)
Arkansas’ season is tailing off a bit but Catolon has been a bright spark throughout. He’s very quick for a free safety but has the physicality to come up to the LOS and mix things up. A good hitter with playmaking potential.

Jalen Wydermyer (TE, Texas A&M)
It took him a while to get going this season but then he turned it on against Alabama (of all teams). An exceptionally gifted natural athlete.

If you missed yesterday’s instant reaction stream reacting to the Pittsburgh game, check it out here:

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Instant reaction: Seahawks give it a real go but still lose

Sunday, October 17th, 2021

You can’t be critical of the Seahawks tonight. Had they won, you could argue it would’ve been one of Pete Carroll’s best victories.

Faced with a first half that was frankly awful, Seattle came out and just ran the ball right at Pittsburgh and dominated. They flushed away a 14-point deficit after half-time and put themselves in a position to claim an unlikely win.

Dare I say, a game that threatened to be an all-time clunker became… fun.

It’s been a long time since the Seahawks ran as effectively as this. To do it with essentially no viable passing game to speak of was all the more impressive.

Carroll announced to NBC their intention to run the ball in the second half. And they did. Pittsburgh had little response or resistance.

Yet just when the moment came to go and take the opportunity to win, the Seahawks crawled into their shell and then started making mistake after mistake.

Ben Roethlisberger’s fumble was right on cue. He even had that hazy look afterwards we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. As if he can barely believe what happened.

The ref’s didn’t do Seattle any favours by creating a holding penalty on Jamarco Jones to wipe out a 16-yard run by Alex Collins immediately after. But that’s when things went awry.

The Seahawks started playing ‘not to lose’. They resorted to only allowing Geno Smith to throw screen passes. They started to lean a little too much on the running game.

Instead of an opportunity to go and grab a win in regulation, they played as if they didn’t want Smith to chuck things away with a turnover. Fear enveloped them when a degree of boldness was needed.

Was it too much to spread things out and try a slant to D.K. Metcalf when it was 17-all? Or something similar?

The running game had worked so well so maybe it’s hindsight to second-guess what happened. Yet on key third downs, the screen game just wasn’t cutting it. Something else, something riskier, needed to be tried.

In the end the Steelers stuck around and produced a field goal drive, taking away Seattle’s chance to win in the fourth quarter.

Then the mistakes started to pour down.

Self-anointed ‘best in the nation’ Jamal Adams saw an interception bounce off his helmet. Because of course:

What even is that? You’re being paid $17.5m a year. You’re a former top-10 pick. You’ve cost this team a fortune in resources. You introduced yourself on NBC in the way that you did.

You have to make that play.

Why else do you spend all that on a player? To make big plays at key moments.

D.K. Metcalf did his best to produce an even greater error by not going out of bounds and fumbling right at the end. Kudos to Freddie Swain for saving the day before Jason Myers kicked a tying field goal.

Again — tremendous credit should go to the Seahawks, Smith and Shane Waldron for even finding a drive in 90 seconds to take it to overtime.

But just as Tre Brown’s incredible third-down hit threatened to swing things Seattle’s way — Smith’s ill-advised decision to scramble and desperate fumble ended the contest.

T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh’s big defensive investment, ultimately proved to be the kind of playmaker Seattle badly lacks.

Now the Seahawks find themselves in a 2-4 hole. To make matters worse, the concerning looking injury to Darrell Taylor could rob them of their best defensive difference maker this season. Of course, that all comes secondary to Taylor’s health. It was a worrying scene towards the end and all fans will be hoping for the best possible news.

Thankfully Michelle Tafoya said Taylor was moving all of his extremities before leaving the stadium and Carroll sounded upbeat. He’s flying back with the team tonight.

I enjoyed the game. I always enjoy a physical, tough game of football like this. Both teams played their part. I was sucked in at the end and felt as disappointed after this loss as I have about any loss over the last couple of years.

The problem for this season is there’s very little room for ‘moral victories’. As competitive as Seattle was against an admittedly awful looking Pittsburgh, destined to go about as far as the Seahawks this year, the reality is the season is heading a certain way. One that ends without a playoff berth and a high degree of uncertainty on what happens next.

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College football draft notes 16/10

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Just a few notes today as today I’ve been to London for the third time this week and time has been really short.

Georgia defensive tackles are legit

You do read some rubbish if you follow draft Twitter or some of the bigger name pundits and writers.

While various players get vaulted way beyond their talent level, others get dismissed for no plausible reason.

Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis was an afterthought for most. Others had him graded in the middle rounds.

Nonsense.

I thought he warranted a high grade a year ago and was surprised he didn’t declare for the 2021 draft. That decision has so far been validated because if anything, he’s promoted his stock even further this year with consistent domination for the Bulldogs.

He absorbs double teams and in some cases, ploughs through them to create pressure. He handles the interior with his great size and underrated athleticism. Yet he also shows off the quickness to create the occasional pressure and disrupt the quarterback.

This is not a good looking draft class for 2022. Currently, I’ve only identified eight players I’d be willing to put even a reasonably high grade on. There are a lot of unknowns and players who are either inconsistent or underperforming.

Davis is going to be one of the best players available. He’s someone who can anchor your D-line, provide stoutness and set the tone. He’s not going to be a sack artist or a splash player every week. Yet he’s going to shock people at the combine and whoever gets him — it’ll likely be a bargain.

His teammate is also worth a mention. Devonte Wyatt is more of a three-technique but he also delivers a level of physicality. He’s quick, shoots gaps but he can play early downs too.

Both had a big impact against Kentucky today — sharing a blocked field goal by destroying the interior protection and otherwise creating chaos up front.

If you like watching the trenches — Georgia are a dream. A big, hulking, tone-setting O-line and impact players on the D-line. Massive, tough, athletic. There’s a reason why they’re undefeated despite fielding two unspectacular quarterbacks this season.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Kentucky’s Penn State transfer Will Levis showed off some talent in this game. A good, quick release. Generally accurate. A solid throwing base. He’s athletic and well sized. Levis is a junior and will likely stay in school for next year but he has a bright future if he continues to develop.

Another tight end to add to the list

As mentioned, it’s looking like a flat 2022 draft with very little in the way of clear top-20 talent. However, unusually, it’s a strong tight end class.

San Jose State’s Derrick Deese Jr might lack great athletic qualities but he just catches everything. He’ll go up and high-point the football. He boxes out defenders. He’s very difficult to cover.

Deese Jr also has the size to develop his blocking.

Against San Diego State the ball was like a magnet to him. His team almost pulled off an upset and it was mainly due to his performance.

It won’t be a surprise, with his NFL bloodlines, if he enters the league and finds a way to have an impact. This is a name to monitor.

I’m going to write up a review of the draft class later this week, in part to take our minds off what I suspect will be a chastening evening in Pittsburgh tomorrow.

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Curtis Allen’s week six watch points (vs Steelers)

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

The Seahawks are in a situation the team has dreaded for years – without their star quarterback and without the ability to really cover his absence for at least three or four games.

Perhaps losing your best player will add a degree of focus the team and coaching staff has been lacking. 

Perhaps.

Hit and miss success areas this year like the use of the running backs, the pass rush and field goal attempts will have to be more hit than miss to have a chance of securing a win.

Given that such a prominent player will be missing from this game, there will be a strong pull to reel the game plan back on both offense and defense and play conservatively since they do not have an electric player who can generate yards and points quickly.

In some measure that is true. In many other ways, there is ample evidence that an aggressive game plan is the surer path to success this week. 

They will actually need to play both conservatively and aggressively against the Steelers.

In what areas? We will outline them for this week’s Watch Points.

Conservative: Mind the margin

With your best and most valuable player unavailable, the margin for victory just got slimmer. The Seahawks will need to play like they understand this and take advantage of Pittsburgh’s mistakes while scrupulously avoiding stupid mistakes of their own that could add up to cost them the game.

It is no secret that Ben Roethlisberger’s accuracy and arm strength are not what they once were. This season he has given opponents at least three or four chances at interceptions per game. The defense must capitalize and give the offense a short field to work with. Or even better, take an interception to the house.

Mental errors must be limited. 

One of the biggest of course is turnovers.

Chris Carson fumbled twice in the 2019 Week Two game against these very Steelers and it very nearly cost them the game.

Have a look at the highlight reel at 1:53 and 11:20:

The first one is a brilliant play by T.J. Watt. He led the league that year with an incredible eight forced fumbles. He has the quickness to get around the edge, close on the runner and punch the ball out so fast you hardly even know what has happened.

The second is Mike Hilton easily beating Nick Vannett and disrupting the handoff.

They must protect the football in order to keep pace in this game.

Another critical area is in the kicking game. Jason Myers must correct whatever problem he has had missing kicks this year.

However, even seemingly insignificant mistakes can influence the outcome of the game with Russell Wilson not there to cover them up.

Mistakes like Deejay Dallas celebrating late in the half against the Rams and burning time.

And mistakes like the one Javon Williams made against the Steelers Sunday.

Notice the clip at 3:48:

The scene — Denver is down 10-3 in the second quarter and has the ball at midfield. Williams is given the ball and breaks free for a huge run and is dragged down at the 2-yard line (an extra half step gets him into the end zone). He gets up and spikes the ball in celebration. He is flagged for a delay of game to push them back to the 7-yard line.

The Steelers defense stiffens and with a big sack of Teddy Bridgewater holds the Broncos to a field goal. The Broncos left four points on the field and 10-6 was the closest they were to competing with the Steelers on Sunday.

Is it a ticky-tack penalty? Sure. Is it avoidable with more focus? Absolutely. It cost the Broncos in the end.

I think it goes without saying — the whole team has been put on notice that their failsafe option will not be on the field to bail them out for their mistakes. Clean football is not optional. Victory depends on it.

Aggressive: Put pressure on Ben Roethliberger

Roethilsberger’s stock in trade as a quarterback has been to withstand heavy pass rush and blitzes and make the defense pay. In his prime he was as good as anyone in extending the play. His strength is not speed and elusiveness so much as it is size and power. He is just as big as the guys trying to tackle him are at times and he can power through their tackles and find open receivers long after the play should have been over.

Even as recent as last year, his numbers were actually better when blitzed by the defense than when not:

-His quarterback rating was 18% better

-His rate of first downs was 32% better

-His touchdown rate – get this – was 70% better

All when blitzed. Between a solid offensive line, some dangerous wide receivers and Ben’s ability to avoid sacks, blitzing the Steeler offense was a fool’s errand in the past.

It no longer is.

Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers through five games this year when blitzed are awful:

-A 52.8% completion rate

-A 56.6 quarterback rating

-Zero touchdowns and one interception

-His sack rate nearly doubles

He is reaching that physical state where he is fine when he has a clean pocket but when he is called on to use his feet and throw off-balance, he is far less effective than he used to be.

Denver last week blitzed nine times and got only four pressures. Ben was able to stay mostly upright and burn the defense for two big pass plays – one 50 yard and 59 yard pass.

Aside from those two passes his stat line was 13 completions in 23 passes for 144 yards Sunday.  He was propped up by those two passes and a great running performance by Najee Harris.

He was sacked once and it was very costly. He was stripped of the ball, Denver recovered and drove for a field goal.

The Seahawk defensive backfield has yet to instil confidence that they can defend deep passes and the pass rush depth is not providing four-on-five wins. Blitzing at key times can have a profound impact on this game.

Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor are the teams’ highest graded edge rushers on PFF but are currently #6 and 7 on the defensive line in snaps so far this season.

Time to unleash them on obvious passing downs.

What are the Seahawks doing with Jamal Adams? Time to blitz him in this game. 

Even just pressure can help. For instance, the Seahawks would do well to get Roethlisberger moving to his left.

Take a look at his passing chart from last year. Throws to his left past the sticks? A 130.2 passer rating. To be avoided at all costs, he was red-hot throwing to that part of the field.

How is he doing in that sector in 2021 though?

Horrid.

He is 9/30 with two interceptions throwing to that zone of the field.

The Steelers regularly run Dionte Johnson over there and he and Ben just have not formed a connection on that side. He is much better on the right side of the offense. The problem is, so is Chase Claypool. Juju Smith-Shuster is hurt, so somebody will have to line up over there to keep balance.

Overload the right side of the offense. Send blitzers from there.

Even if all you do is get Ben to move his feet and get out of the pocket, your odds of success greatly increase.

Conservative: Keep Najee Harris from taking pressure off the offense

Harris finally broke through and had a 100-yard game on the ground Sunday against Denver. That kept the team from having to rely on their aging quarterback to constantly make plays to keep the offense moving.

Trivia: the Steelers have won 18 games in a row when their running back gets 100 yards.

Saying it is important that the defense keep a lid on Harris is an understatement. They have finally found a complementary back that can provide regular chunks of yards.

Stopping him starts in the middle with Al Woods, Bryan Mone and Poona Ford. Yet the edges are where Harris is dangerous. Players like Kerry Hyder and Carlos Dunlap must keep containment. If the Steelers successfully motion tight ends or the tackles can move the edges, Harris will have room to run and he rarely fails to take advantage.

Watch him glide by Kyle Fuller like he is standing still and gain an extra six yards (@ 7:23):

They cannot allow too many plays like that to happen.

If the Seahawks have to go back to their huge Bear Front package and stack another defender on the edge on running downs, so be it. Here comes 1000lbs of beef between Woods, Ford and Mone with bookends on each side providing toughness on the edges.

And the linebackers in the run game?

Well, if you have read any of the previous watch points for this year, this is going to sound like a broken record.

The linebackers and Jamal Adams have been a massive investment in salary and draft capital. It is time for it to pay off by matching speed and vision with Harris. This may be where the game is won or lost.

How can we push for the defensive line to be conservative in the run game and yet aggressive in the passing game?

It is possible if the coaches and players pick their spots properly.

Taking one of these two elements away will dramatically affect the Steeler’s rhythm and ability to function properly.

They must find a way to balance their defense in this manner.

Aggressive: Do not be afraid to take shots on offense

Everybody knows the Seahawks are downgraded at quarterback with Geno Smith. Everybody is also giving Geno lip service like they are taking him seriously as a real quarterback who can marshal this team to a win.

But even the most levelheaded coaches and players are breathing a little sigh of relief that they are not facing Russell Wilson Sunday.

Make them pay for that, Geno.

The Seahawks still have Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Gerald Everett and Will Dissly to play with. The Steelers are vulnerable at cornerback.

They should craft an early passing game that is crisp and short. Take the snap, take two steps, and throw. Do not give the fierce pass rush time to chase you down and cause a catastrophe.

Easier said than done? Absolutely. It has been done by this team though.

The Seahawks already have a basic framework for how they can do it and have success: The Week Two game in 2019:

Look at the quick throws at 0:14, 3:27 and 3:36. Crisp, decisive, moving of the ball and avoiding the pass rush.

More of the same: 4:16 to Will Dissly for a TD and three in a row starting at 7:08.

It is likely the defense respected Russell Wilson’s deep ball ability and therefore gave him some room to operate. Geno Smith might have to work his way into that underneath room by throwing receivers open in the early going.

That could set up a chess match later in the game if they play it correctly. Wait until the time is right and take a deep shot. Geno has the arm. Lockett and Metcalf know how to get open enough to make it an easy throw.

There is potential there for Geno to stun the Steelers with some key throws.

Potential and precedent. The Steelers defense has given up twenty-one explosive pass plays so far this season. Four of those were thrown by Teddy Bridgewater – who, with all due respect – is no one’s go-to example of an explosive passer.

There is also a weapon Geno can use aggressively to provide yards that Russell may not have been quite as strong in using: Colby Parkinson.

In the mock game in preseason this year, Geno and Colby were on the “B” offense against the “A” defense. They had fantastic chemistry together and moved the ball well. Keep in mind that was a lighter game without serious tackling. But Geno knew where Parkinson would be, he threw in his direction even when he was not wide open and Parkinson made several good catches — even adjusting to the throw if it was not right on the mark.

That is occasionally something that head coaches will do, bring in a bench player when a backup quarterback is in, in order to provide some comfort and chemistry. They have practiced together a lot and there is a natural connection that may not exist as strongly with Will Dissly or Gerald Everett.

Quick pass plays. Two steps and throw.

Let the defense tighten a bit and then burn them deep.

Here is another area the Seahawks can have success when aggressive on offense — fourth downs.

The Broncos on Sunday were three for four against the Steelers defense on fourth downs. The fourth one they didn’t convert? A heave at the end of the game.

All three they converted were passes. The Broncos found a weakness and exploited it for gains.

Pittsburgh has stopped only 4/9 fourth down attempts this year.

With a full arsenal of offensive weapons and a bit of boldness to keep the ball out of the opposing offense’s hands, there is an opportunity to make some gains.

Still another way to be aggressive on offense? I saved the best one for last:

Run the ball right at T.J. Watt.

That’s right. Go right at the best defensive player in the NFL.

Hear me out.

There are no weaknesses in Watt’s game. He is a relentless run defender, one of the best pass rushers in the game, and he forces fumbles. There is no arguing why the Steelers gave him a huge contract this year.

What is his best weapon? His speed off the edge.

How did he demonstrate it in that 2019 game? Let’s look at the tape:

Watch 0:25 where Watt lines up and makes great time to Russell Wilson while Germain Ifedi does…well, I don’t know what he is doing there.

On that Carson strip, it is his speed that allows him to get a good angle on Carson and wind up that fist to punch the ball out.

How do you nullify the speed of T.J. Watt? Run right at him. TV color commentators love to point this out. If you run right at him, he has nowhere to go and doesn’t get wound up. As well, he can often get up field so quickly, he leaves the edge open. Carefully crafted plays can exploit this area at times.

Watch how the Seahawks employed this tactic in 2019.

Cue the tape to 0:44. The Seahawks bring Duane Brown all the way from the left tackle spot to block Watt, and Carson springs free. (Also, I don’t care if your last name is Watt, the sight of that massive a man bearing down on you with three full steps of momentum has got to be scary.)

Now let’s look at 1:44. Here we see Watt rushing on George Fant and Fant handles him and traffics him out of the hole and there is a very nice gain there.

There are several advantages to running to Watt’s quadrant of the field.

-It gives Watt a half-second pause in pass rushing situations

-It gives Geno Smith some confidence that he will not have to carry the team on every single play

-If done correctly, there may be gaps that can be exploited for big gains

There is also a surprise factor. Whenever I watch highlights of Steelers defense, it feels like Watt’s defensive mates are so used to him making extraordinary plays, when he is out of position there appears to almost be an extra half-second of surprise for the linebackers and safeties to react and tackle the ball carrier.

The Seahawks will need to surprise the Steelers in several ways in order to win on Sunday.

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Curtis Allen’s ‘first quarter’ report card

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and an addition to his weekly ‘watch points’ series. Curtis’ latest look at the Seahawks and their opponents for the Pittsburgh game will be published on Friday…

With 17 games now, the season doesn’t split evenly into quarters. With Week Five being a short week for the Thursday game, we will call the first five games the first quarter of the season.

Record — 2-3

MVP

1. Russell Wilson

Ten touchdowns against one interception.

A 72% completion rate, easily clearing the magic 70% goal that Pete Carroll has long held out for him.

Leading the NFL in quarterback rate (a sizzling 125.3) and yards per attempt (9.6).

Throwing between the numbers better than he ever had before:

And reaching nearly 20 MPH on a go-for-broke touchdown run against San Francisco.

All this while breaking in a first time offensive coordinator.

Wilson is the MVP of the Seahawks and it is not even close.

2.D.K. Metcalf

Through five games, Metcalf is on pace to put up nearly identical numbers in targets, yards, catches, first downs and yards after catch to what he did in 2020 in a projected 16 games of 2021 play.

Then how is he more valuable to the Seahawks this year?

He is more efficient and usable in different ways.

He has five broken tackles already in just five games. His career high is eight. The toughness he has demonstrated has taken his impact to another level.

He is on pace for 17 touchdowns. His career high is 10.

Russell Wilson’s quarterback rating when he threw to him in the first five games?  138.5 – a fantastic 25% better than last year.

He is doing this all with his longest catch so far this season only being 30 yards. The days of sending Metcalf on only two or three deep routes are over.

Metcalf is running more varied routes than he ever has and putting himself in better position to catch the ball rather than just winning on pure athleticism and speed.

Again – all with a new offensive coordinator.

He has one official drop in five games. The in-game technical mistakes we saw last year have yet to surface this year. An opponent got under his skin and he drew a taunting flag on Metcalf. That problem appears to have been remedied.

He is quickly approaching a standing on the team equal to Tyler Lockett as the go-to receiver in clutch situations.  And he still has room to grow.

3.Darrell Taylor

He has had a fantastic start on the field.

In his first five NFL games, Taylor has recorded four sacks, seven pressures, two quarterback knockdowns and a forced fumble.

Three of those four sacks killed drives.

Two of those sacks came at key points in the game. The Seahawks were defending their red zone, so at least six points were all but assured and as many as 16 points were up for grabs.

The opposing offense ended up with only three points on those two drives because of Taylor’s sacks.

There are nine NFL players who have more sacks than Taylor this year. They are all on heavy snap counts. 

The lowest is T.J.Watt at 54% of the Steelers’ snaps. 

One other, Javon Hargrave, is playing 64% of the Eagles’ snaps. 

The other seven are in the 70-90% range.

Darrell Taylor is running with them but is doing it in just 37% of the Seahawks’ snaps so far this year.

That is value.

Honorable Mention:  Tyler Lockett

You know by now what Lockett brings to the Seahawks. He is a consistently productive receiver with a near-psychic connection with Russell Wilson. He’s perhaps the most clutch receiver in the NFL.

This year he has excelled in another way to help the team be successful — he has drawn three pass interference penalties for 80 yards in the first five games.

All three of those penalties extended drives and resulted in touchdowns for the Seahawks.

Lockett is earning every penny of that new contract extension.

Rookie Report

In past report cards, I ranked the play of the rookies each quarter, handicapping a ‘Rookie of the Quarter’ award.  With the lack of draft picks and many rookies injured, there is no one that deserves the award this quarter.

Instead we can talk about a couple small but nice things:

  • John Rhattigan made the team and had a fumble recovery on special teams
  • Jake Curhan making the team as an undrafted free agent and taking some snaps is commendable
  • Dee Eskridge had two electric runs and one catch before going on IR

Hopefully Tre Brown can make his debut this quarter for a team that desperately needs a spark at cornerback and in the return game.

Pleasant Surprises

1.Darrell Taylor

After experiencing delay after delay with his rehabilitation last year (and receiving occasional scraps of information spoken in positive tones but appearing extremely ominous) fans can be forgiven for waiting to see if Taylor could actually play in an NFL game before getting excited.

After five games, everyone now has license to get excited.

Watch him deliver that blend of speed and bend in the preseason.

Watch him put the Colts’ $70 million right tackle on the turf in his first NFL game.

Watch Rashod Hill get spun around and go horizontal to try and stop Taylor from swatting the ball away from Kirk Cousins and failing miserably.

It is only a five game stretch. He has a long way to go to become a complete player.

His injury history may rear its ugly head again.

But a big chunk of the frustration about the draft cost and the injury time lost is being spent right before our eyes.

Taylor is an incredible bright spot in a season that has been completely uneven.

2. The easy win in Indy

Starting the season on the road against a playoff team, albeit a banged up one. A team with superior strength on both sides of the trenches. Against an offensive line with a once-again reshuffled interior. With a new offensive coordinator. Without the benefit their starters having played a snap of preseason football.

The Seahawks passed the test with flying colors.

Chris Carson running tough. Russell Wilson throwing precision bombs. Tyler Lockett showing he is not getting complacent after getting another extension. The remade defensive line causing all kinds of problems for Carson Wentz.

It was a sight to see. For one bright week, the season got off to a great start.

3. Running backs in the passing game

The offense has made an effort to use the running backs more in the passing game this year and it shows.

The team is averaging 10.53 yards per catch with their running backs, a huge jump over last year’s 7.33 number.

They have regularly burned the opposition with simple passes in screens and wheel routes. The 28-yard pass to Collins in the San Francisco game was a catalyst for the offense to wake up after maybe the worst quarter of offensive football in team history.

Travis Homer appears to have found another way to help the team alongside his special teams and pass blocking responsibilities. Last year he had nine catches for 90 yards. Already this season in five games he has six catches for 75 yards, a robust 12.5 yards per catch average. When he comes on the field on third downs, it is not an automatic cue that he is just there to pass block.

The Seahawks in the past have used passing to the running backs almost as a mere courtesy – a way to spread the defense out a bit when they cannot get the running game going and the receivers are facing two-deep safety looks.

Now, they seem to be actually planning their use as a regular part of the offense.

Look for that to continue. Particularly when Chris Carson gets healthy.

Biggest Disappointments

1. Jamal Adams

Zero sacks. Zero quarterback pressures. Zero turnovers generated. Only two tackles for loss. A grade from PFF that is even worse than last year.

Adams’ #33 regularly appearing on highlight reels for the wrong reasons.

No admission from Adams or the team that his play has been seriously lacking. 

A $70million contract that looks like an utter disaster not even two months after it was signed.

His performance in the first quarter has been so poor that even the most ardent proponents of the trade are changing their minds on the deal.

On the flipside, even the staunchest opponents of the trade have to admit that even this is worse than they could have expected.

The team publicly justified his 2020 play by pointing out he was acquired so late in the preseason, that he did not have time to be fully integrated into the defense and was playing out of sorts for most of the year.

That is believable.

What defies explanation is, knowing how important Adams was given their level of investment in trade, how the team could not get Adams signed and onto the field this offseason to actually get make sure he is fully aware of their defensive concepts and the role they have in mind for him.

Adams missed the OTA’s with an ‘excused absence’ and then opted to be in team meetings but not on the field in training camp or preseason as a ‘hold-in.’

All of which is excusable if Adams were playing well in the regular season. He is not. Rumors and talk about how the Seahawks are still fitting this player into the defense continue to dog the team as he logs ineffective game after ineffective game.

Beyond the obvious return on investment concerns, Adams is currently blocking young, inexpensive talent on the roster in Ryan Neal and Marquise Blair. The team has spent the affordable years of their NFL careers failing to explore whether they can fill prominent roles on this team.

And that is a shame.

2.Coaching

The offense and defense frequently have been unable to play well at the same this quarter. The quality of complementary football is extremely lacking.

A disturbing trend with this defense is resurfacing and will not go away. There are just too many mirrors to last season’s defense to ignore.

The pass rush acquisitions were talked up as a real strength in 2021 – an unspoken mea culpa for fielding such a horrible unit in 2020.

Serious concerns about a major position group (cornerback) were answered with statements about competing and believing in the group and assurances that players like Tre Flowers were having their best offseason yet.

And yet just like last year, here we are. The Seahawks are fielding a team that after five games is on pace to concede the most yards in NFL history.

The pass rush is underwhelming (see below) and the defensive backs do not seem coordinated in the least.

This defense is seriously bad given the talent they have.  Think of this – of the eleven primary defenders, only Kerry Hyder is the ‘new guy’ on this team. All of the others have experience in the system and familiarity with the coaching staff.

Yet this group looks as uncoordinated and disorganised as a team of guys in a pickup game that just met each other. That cannot be explained any other way than a result of poor coaching.

In answer to press inquiries, Pete Carroll has dusted off some of the same tropes he fed the press last year as well:

  • “The players are doing what we ask in practice but we are not seeing it on Sundays”
  • “We just need to clean up some things”
  • “We thought we had some challenges worked out but they popped up again”

The unfortunate part with this team right now is Russell Wilson is hurt and there is no easy stretch of opponents with banged up second-rate quarterbacks trying to keep their teams afloat coming up on the schedule to prop this team’s confidence and record up.

For a team that is heavily dependent on veteran players (and seemingly not reinventing their defense from previous years) the return the coaches have been getting on the field is baffling.

The defense is dead last in yards conceded per game. 

Rushing yards? 30th

Passing yards? 29th 

Scoring? 21st

Veterans like Bobby Wagner, Benson Mayowa and Carlos Dunlap occasionally make plays but appear more like spent forces than players that offenses have to consider in their game plan.

Jamal Adams’ skill and ability continue to go vastly under-utilised.

There is only thing worse than being bad.

Being bad and expensive.

That is where the team is currently. Major changes are coming.

3.Poor pass rush

The team has recorded ten sacks through five games. Last year after five games they had nine sacks.

Players yet to record a sack in 2021: Jamal Adams, Poona Ford, LJ Collier, Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, Bryan Mone and Robert Nkemdiche.

Darrell Taylor is the only player on the roster with more than one sack.

The pass rush is achieving a 23.4% pressure rate, a slight bump from the 21.4% rate the defense recorded through five games last year.

The good news (if you want to call it that) is that the team this year is doing that with half the amount of blitzing. Last year’s pass rush was truly horrid.

Week after week, watching Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford picking the defense apart from a pillowy-soft pocket after being told once again all offseason that the pass rush problems have been solved is just too much to bear.

Once again, the corners and safeties are being left out to dry by the lack of pressure on the quarterback.

If this team wants to survive the injury to Russell Wilson and get to the postseason, the pass rush is job number one to improve.

What will it take? More blitzing? Better coaching? Another miraculous in-season acquisition? Better effort from the players?

Every option must be explored. Right now.

An answer must be found. The team is at a crossroads right now.

The sunniest take imaginable: Sometimes losing your best player forces you out of your comfort zone. Options you have dismissed when your MVP-level quarterback was tearing the field up become much more plausible all of the sudden.

There exists a possibility that the suddenly adrenaline-focused front office and coaching staff will be forced to make this team better in order to avoid a total collapse — and this could reap positive results.

Dishonorable Mention: Jason Myers

Myers has already missed two field goals and an extra point.

All of those misses had a direct impact on the game.

Fans that expect another perfect season kicking field goals are going to be disappointed. That part of the game is just too unpredictable.

But Myers cannot keep going like he has in the first quarter. A return to more consistent play is absolutely necessary for this team to remain competitive.

Upcoming Quarter

Schedule:

@ Pittsburgh SNF

New Orleans MNF

Jacksonville

Bye Week

@ Green Bay

The Seahawks will be fortunate to go 2-2 this quarter.

Goals

1, 2 and 3. Survive the absence of Russell Wilson

A backup entering the game and taking the game by storm is not an uncommon occurrence in the NFL (see Week Eight last year vs San Francisco — Nick Mullens put up 20 points on the Seahawks in the fourth quarter after subbing in for Jimmy Garropolo).

Now Geno Smith has a completely different task – to be the quarterback that teams game plan for. That is a whole different animal.

How can the rest of the team help Geno? Three ways.

1) More focus on the running attack

2)The defense must even out their inconsistencies

3)Special teams must go from merely adequate, back to the special unit they were last year

If you missed it this week, check out Rob’s plan for the Seahawks from 2022 onwards.

There were also two live streams to catch up on.

One with Brian Nemhauser:

And one with Jeff Simmons:

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NEW live stream with Jeff Simmons

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

Jeff Simmons is back with us today to debate the big topics involving the Seahawks… including who could be the next Head Coach in Seattle and the future of Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Russell Wilson…

My new plan & direction for the Seahawks for 2022

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

My preference? Go with Russell Wilson’s approach

Seahawks fans are starting to think long term, with the team at 2-3 and facing the prospect of watching Geno Smith at quarterback for the next month.

Not only that, the defense is struggling (again). The running game appears shot (again). Seattle’s O-line is grading at 68.5, 55.2, 53.7, 65.5 and 70.8 as a quintet (according to PFF, again).

There’s not a lot to be optimistic about.

You might say forming a plan for 2022 at this stage is premature. I don’t see any reason to wait.

Plenty of people said it was premature, too, to raise serious concerns about the team ahead of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Or to talk about the likelihood of a big Russell Wilson trade saga last December. Or to critically analyse the Jamal Adams trade and discuss whether they should’ve moved on this year.

There’s no reason to delay this conversation. We can all see big changes are inevitable. It’s the make-up of those changes that will shape Seattle’s next chapter.

I think Pete Carroll will retire at the end of the season. Or maybe he’ll return to USC. The timing of this article in the LA Times is… curious. I’m not sure why Carroll would start talking about USC now, amid the biggest crisis of his reign in Seattle. It feels like he’s maybe putting out the feelers, seeing if there’s interest. It might suit him to return to California for one final hurrah, rather than retire or go into another saga with the franchise quarterback.

I’m not sure what the future holds for John Schneider. He may or may not remain in his position. It may or may not be his choice. After seriously botching this reset with the incredible misuse of resources, a clean sweep might be necessary.

I appreciate the ownership structure as it is would probably prefer not to initiate major changes. They might have no choice, depending on what Carroll and Schneider decide. And we have no evidence either way to assume how they’ll act about anything.

A lot of people think they’ll be dormant. I’ve voiced that assumption myself. This viewpoint is based on a Carroll contract extension dished out a year ago, amid reports of a five-year plan to potentially sell the team.

A lot has changed since Carroll’s deal was announced. They were 6-1 and heading to Buffalo. Since then there’s been a horrible playoff exit, a quarterback trade saga and a very difficult start to the 2021 season. There’s the real prospect of a first losing season in a decade.

If Russell Wilson demands to leave in the off-season, for example, short of a major restructure of the organisation — they’ll have no choice but to act one way or another. Either to back Carroll or go in a different Wilson-inspired direction.

It’s uncomfortable not knowing how ownership would handle this — or more specifically, who would handle this. Yet even the most inactive owners — Mike Brown for example — are forced into action eventually.

I’ll also say what I said a year ago. I do think there’s a scenario where keeping Carroll works too. But it involves him taking on a figurehead role where he hands the keys to the offense to an offensive coordinator and the keys to the defense to a defensive coordinator. Their schemes, their ideas, their execution.

I don’t think Carroll is capable of doing what Nick Saban has done in Alabama. Saban is still very much in charge but he trusts all-star coordinators. I think Carroll will always be a meddler. He’ll always think his way is the only way. The fact Seattle gave him the opportunity to indulge with complete control is why he’s even here in the first place.

Carroll once said, “It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.” It’s a quote that stuck with me. I wish he would take his own advice and adjust to being a Head Coach who creates culture and leadership, while letting other people handle the fine details of running an offense, defense and special teams.

It’s frustrating why he hasn’t opted to do that because I do think he still has a lot to offer the Seahawks. Not, however, while he persists with people like Ken Norton Jr running the defense. They look ramshackle and disorganised. They repeat mistakes.

Norton Jr is under-qualified for the role. He has no track record as a coordinator other than consistent failure. He’s there because he’s Carroll’s man. The entire coaching staff is filled with them — including family members and the recent return of Carl ‘Tater’ Smith.

Carroll doubled down on control when things went wrong in 2017. The only way to move forward now, I think, is to do the opposite.

I don’t think Carroll can change. That’s why I think the Seahawks have to.

I also think this is a weary looking franchise. The main players — Carroll, Schneider, Wilson and others — just seem spent. You could say the Carroll project has gone stale, or that perhaps it’s just coming to a natural conclusion with everyone involved needing a fresh start.

Change, one way or another, feels inevitable. This is how I would go about trying to rejuvenate the Seahawks for 2022.

1. A clean sweep of the organisation, rallying behind Russell Wilson

On Sunday I sat and watched Matt Ryan face-off against Zach Wilson. It dawned on me how difficult it’ll be for the Seahawks to ever replace Russell Wilson.

It felt like I was watching two different scenarios. The ageing, past-his-best veteran who may, one day, be available via trade or on the open-market as a short-term solution. Or the young rookie, drafted after one dynamic season at BYU.

Neither felt appealing. Wilson was erratic and doesn’t look ready. Ryan’s arm strength looked shot and while his numbers were good, it should be noted who he was playing against.

Seahawks fans could do worse than watch a live game like this. Yes, Russell Wilson has his flaws. He is not the perfect quarterback and there are aspects to his game that may always be frustrating (the sacks, the lack of taking what’s on offer).

Yet at the same time, there’s a reason why he’s a sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer. His quality is in serious danger of being overlooked.

I appreciate how challenging it is to assess Wilson currently. I don’t think he played particularly well prior to the injury. The fact the offense had about -8 yards until late in the first half against San Francisco is incredible really.

I sense the thing people are most looking forward to against Pittsburgh is to see if Geno Smith can throw a competent screen pass, feature the tight ends and check things down. Simple things many perceive to be an issue for Wilson.

Yet at the same time, there are a whole bunch of stats that also need to be acknowledged.

Wilson has a 10/1 TD/INT ratio. He’s leading the league in passer rating. His PFF grade (90.3) is second only to Tom Brady. He’s done all this without any help in the running game, he’s playing behind a poorly performing O-line and the defense is giving up record breaking yardage.

Fans and media alike will come to their own conclusions and there might not be a definitive right answer. I fear this is set to be a divisive debate for the next few months, splitting everyone into ‘teams’ as we so often see on Seahawks Twitter.

My own personal conclusion is this. The fact that Wilson can statistically be so impressive yet we all feel like he can be better is indicative of who and what he is as a player. Even when he’s not at his best, he produces at a level so many other fanbases crave.

If you are able to supply the supporting cast required to be competitive — I believe he can lead this team to glory.

I’m a big believer that all quarterbacks need to be complemented. Brady, last season, had everything. Tampa Bay completed the circle Carroll so often talks about.

Green Bay, who they beat in the NFC Championship game, haven’t got back to the Super Bowl due to confusing coaching decisions, botched special teams play and a weak defense. They haven’t completed the circle and that’s prevented Aaron Rodgers, genius that he is, from returning to the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes suddenly looks human when he’s asked to play behind a shocking O-line in the Super Bowl or try and prop up the worst defense in the league.

Moving on from Wilson — particularly with a rancid looking 2022 quarterback class — is not the answer. I think setting up the foundations to win with him as the focal point is preferable.

I worry that moving on from him puts you back in a situation where you’re looking for an Andy Dalton type to play quarterback. Or you’re taking a chance on a rookie who’s out of his depth. And once you get into the rat race of searching at that position — it can be very hard to get out of it.

I’ve watched all of the big name quarterbacks in college football and it’s concerning how dry the well is currently. Even with a player like Desmond Ridder — who has elevated his Cincinnati team and caught the eye — there’s a degree of suspicion as to whether he’s truly a next level prospect or just a college dynamo.

Therefore, I think priority #1 this off-season should be to give Wilson’s vision for the Seahawks a shot. We heard from Greg Olsen (see below) that he feels confined by Carroll’s philosophy and simply doesn’t believe in it anymore:

This is the crux of the matter here. I don’t think Wilson wants to leave Seattle at all. Legacy is important to Wilson and there’s something special about playing for one team. This is simply a case of Wilson feeling like Carroll’s way is holding him back. And he’s reached a point in his career where he thinks a different approach is necessary to get to where he wants to go — which is back to the Super Bowl.

Before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, let’s at least give Wilson’s approach a try. That means doubling down with a new Head Coach who shares his vision. I’d go as far as to suggest he should be included in the interview process.

You run the risk of empowering him too much. That, to me, still seems like a risk worth taking. The Packers moved on from Mike McCarthy and immediately had back-to-back 13-3 seasons and made the NFC Championship game twice. That was all despite Aaron Rodgers clashing with management and having a somewhat frosty relationship with Matt LaFleur.

For me, an ideal scenario would be to learn from the Packers. Take a similar approach but do it better — ensuring Wilson is on board and invested, rather than creating avoidable drama.

This may also mean a new GM. Why? I’ve speculated that Schneider might’ve been the one person willing to deal Wilson last off-season. After all, he reportedly travelled to North Dakota State and had a meeting with Chicago’s GM Ryan Pace to discuss a deal. He then presented an offer to Carroll, who reportedly turned it down.

I doubt Schneider would do that if he was against making a move. I sense a weariness in dealing with Mark Rodgers, as has been speculated by many over the years. I think this has generally created a weariness among Carroll and Wilson too. Everyone just seems a bit tired of being together.

And let’s not forget how often Schneider visited the top-QB pro-days in 2018 — and reportedly had a tentative conversation with the Browns about trading Wilson for the #1 pick that year (reportedly with Josh Allen as the target replacement).

I do wonder what the Schneider/Wilson relationship is these days. If the Seahawks empower Wilson this off-season I’m not convinced Schneider will be the key decision maker implementing the new plan.

Given the bleak outlook for quarterbacks in college, I’m not sure the Seahawks have much choice but to go all-in on making it attractive for Wilson to want to stay in Seattle. I’ve read a lot about moving on, regaining stock and going through what would be akin to an expansion level rebuild due to the lack of true long-term blue chip players on the roster.

To me that might sound exciting and intriguing but it also feels like a plan that is harder to execute and is more likely to bury this team over many years.

After all, look at the first round picks Miami have had recently. Are they any better for it? What about the Rams when they traded away the rights to Robert Griffin III?

Unless the Seahawks wish to play musical chairs with another team, essentially taking what they can get for Wilson and going all-in on a Deshaun Watson type. That’s a plan I suppose. It would also be controversial and lined with risk.

I think if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the last 18 months it’s this — it’s more difficult to replace a quarterback than a coach. Ask the Patriots about that. It’s time for the Seahawks to heed that warning.

2. Bring in a dynamic, offensive-minded Head Coach

If the second coming of Brandon Staley is available, then that would be great. I sense, however, that Staley is a rare find. I remember watching his initial press conference with the Chargers and was blown away by his performance. The decision makers in LA have played a blinder identifying Staley and Justin Herbert as their future.

Maybe the Seahawks should tap into their braintrust by appointing someone from within their front office?

Assuming they can’t find a Staley, I think it’s time to go and get a coach who can work with Wilson to deliver the kind of partnership we’re seeing across the league. A brilliant offensive, creative mind and a franchise quarterback.

The two names that we’ve talked about the most are Joe Brady and Brian Darboll.

Brady has achieved a lot in a short space of time. He instigated a National Championship for LSU. Granted, he coached an incredibly talented offense. They had Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Clyde Edwards-Helaire — plus a very capable offensive line.

LSU had NFL talent throughout their roster.

Even so, let’s not ignore Burrow’s development working with Brady. He transferred from a backup gig at Ohio State. His first season at LSU was very average — he threw for 16 touchdowns only and had five picks in 13 games. After the 2018 season he was viewed as a day three pick.

Brady arrived in 2019 and suddenly Burrow was throwing for 60 touchdowns, winning the Heisman and leading an unbeaten National Champion. He became the sure-fire #1 overall pick.

That success brought Brady back to the NFL with the Panthers. He’d previously worked for Sean Payton as an offensive assistant. He’s created an impression despite not having a great quarterback or O-line in Carolina.

He’s only 32 so he’s young. Not everyone is Sean McVay and naturally suited to being a young Head Coach. The only way to found out, really, is to have intimate knowledge of how he operates and to interview him for a job.

Yet Brady feels like the kind of creative, dynamic coach Wilson craves. We all know he has a lot of admiration for Payton’s system in New Orleans. Brady’s background with the Saints could be a winner if the aim is to build a strong relationship here.

Darboll is a different type of candidate. He’s 46 — so 14 years older than Brady. He’s been around a long time.

Here’s his résumé:

New England — 2000-01
(defensive assistant)

New England — 2002-06
(receivers coach)

New York Jets — 2007-08
(quarterbacks coach)

Cleveland — 2009-10
(offensive coordinator)

Miami — 2011
(offensive coordinator)

Kansas City — 2012
(offensive coordinator)

New England — 2013-16
(tight ends coach)

Alabama — 2017
(offensive coordinator & QB coach)

Buffalo — 2018-2021
(offensive coordinator)

Some of these stints have been unsuccessful. For example, with the Browns he helped run the 32nd ranked offense in 2009 and the 29th ranked offense in 2010.

He’s very much part of the Belichick tree, working for the Patriots and also Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and Nick Saban.

Going to work with the Bills is his first venture outside of that Belichick-inpsired world.

Many of Belichick’s protégés have flopped as Head Coaches. That would have to be the slight concern with Darboll. Yet his work with Josh Allen is a tremendous counter point to that.

Allen has been transformed from a figure of fun among NFL fans to one of the best players in the league. Darboll has earned a reputation for tailoring gameplan’s for specific opponents. He’s not wedded to a brand of offense per se. He’s known to have games where they abandon the run if that’s what is necessary. Everything feels deliberate and calculated.

He’s not only worked wonders with Allen. The likes of Stefon Diggs have excelled in this offense. He’s got a lot out of the O-line and running backs — despite a lack of elite players in either unit.

PFF wrote a decent breakdown on how Darboll has worked with Allen to achieve success in Buffalo.

Transplanting his offensive vision, which appears to be open-minded and has adapted and developed during his various stints in the league and college, would be a major boon for the Seahawks.

There are other names to mention too. It seems quite strange to mention Kellen Moore’s name, given he was playing college football at the same time as Wilson. Yet his work with the Cowboys’ offense has been tremendous. Eric Bienemy’s name is always mentioned as a candidate yet there have been various reports about poor interviews and concerning moments in his past that have seemingly prevented him from getting an opportunity. Green Bay’s Nathaniel Hackett will likely be a candidate for teams in 2022 also.

There are options to take this franchise in a new direction and create the kind of working relationship and philosophy Wilson craves.

Pairing the offensive minded Head Coach with an experienced defensive coordinator would be the key. They would need someone who can deliver a complementary defense that is schemed well, can provide regular pressure and find a way to finally plug in some cornerbacks who are capable of making a few plays.

It’s not an overly ambitious or unrealistic plan. Whoever took over would also need to be supported by a strong off-season where key roster changes were made.

I do think it’s worth giving this kind of plan a try, though, before we embrace the alternative of a total re-working of the franchise.

#3 Re-focus resources to different positions

We’ve long stated that the Seahawks are spending far too much resource at linebacker and safety and that needs to change.

Bobby Wagner is 32 next June and has a $20m cap hit next year. It might be time to move on in the off-season.

I would consider eating a significant cap-hit to trade Jamal Adams and just enable both parties to move on. Dealing him after June 1st next year allows you to spread out the damage. It’d cost you $4m in 2022 and $12m in 2023. It’s not ideal but it’s quickly starting to feel like this might be an unsalvageable situation unless you appoint a defensive coordinator who can breathe new life into his career.

Alternatively, considering the team is currently set to carry over $11m into next years salary cap, they might just want to eat the $16m that it’d cost to trade him at the start of the off-season. It might actually be easier to trade him post-contract extension, with buyers knowing the exact cost and having no guaranteed money invested in Adams.

According to Over the Cap, trading or cutting Wagner alone would give the Seahawks about $59m to spend in 2022. They’d have a lot to do — with the likes of Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs out of contract.

They’re also not in a desperate state either — with at least some money to spend to try and kick-start a new regime.

What should the priorities be?

For the first time in a long time, the complete mission statement should be to become a team that dominates in the trenches. That’s where the big money should be spent. That’s where the top draft picks should be invested.

The aim should be to create a team that can kick your arse up front on both sides of the ball — home or away.

Other positions, such as safety, can be left up to the likes of Ryan Neal to fly around and make plays. It’s time to focus on speed and value at the non-premium positions and use the bulk of your resources on the positions of greater importance.

On top of that, it’s time for the Seahawks to go and get a truly excellent, reliable running back.

For a team that supposedly values the running game so much — they’ve passed on most of the leagues top runners in the draft (Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara etc) because they don’t fit ideals.

It’s time to go and acquire a runner that opponents fear playing.

Give Russell Wilson a good O-line and running game to go along with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett — plus a complementary pass-rushing defense — and there’s absolutely no reason why this team can’t return to success quickly.

The following are all scheduled to be free agents in 2022:

Von Miller
Brandon Scherff
Chandler Jones
Cam Robinson
Terron Armstead
Akiem Hicks
Jason Pierre-Paul
Ryan Jensen
Andrew Norwell
Calais Campbell
Bradley Bozeman
Brian Allen
Wyatt Teller
James Daniels
Will Hernandez
Austin Corbett
Mark Glowinski
Larry Ogunjobi
Jarran Reed
Harold Landry
Haason Reddick
Jadeveon Clowney
Dante Fowler Jr.
Emmanuel Ogbah
Derek Barnett
Whitney Mercilus
Jacob Martin

There are going to be some options to add quality to the trenches in the veteran market.

There are draft options too, such as:

Trevor Penning (T, Northern Iowa)
Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan)
Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
Alex Forsyth (C, Oregon)
Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa)
Rasheed Walker (T, Penn State)
Haskell Garrett (DT, Ohio State)
Zachary Carter (DE, Florida)
Jermaine Johnson (DE, Florida)
Drake Jackson (DE, USC)
Logan Hall (DT, Houston)
Devonte Wyatt (DT, Georgia)
Darian Kinnard (T, Kentucky)

There’s a cluster of talented running backs including Michigan State’s brilliant Kenneth Walker, UCLA’s Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet and Alabama’s Brian Robinson.

It’s a shame that in a year where the Seahawks might end up with a top-12 pick that they might take themselves out of contention for a prodigious cornerback talent in Derek Stingley — purely for the folly of the desperate Jamal Adams trade.

We’ve seen teams return to contention quickly with inspired off-season moves and a shift in philosophy. That is what I would like to try.

As the Dallas Cowboys are currently proving, you can get things moving in the right direction. This doesn’t have to be long or painful. It just needs to be different in the right areas.

A quick note for this week — I will be doing a live stream with Jeff Simmons on Wednesday at 2pm PST. If you missed yesterday’s with Brian from Hawkblogger, check it out below:

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NEW: Live stream with Hawkblogger

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Brian Nemhauser from Hawkblogger and I get into the big topics relating to the Seahawks. This is the first of a big week of streaming shows. Jeff Simmons will join me on Wednesday too and Robbie and I will join up at some point before the weekend.

I’ve also got a big piece scheduled for tomorrow on my plan for the Seahawks for 2022 onwards.