Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Report: Pete Carroll closing in on new deal, ownership update

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Pete Carroll is reportedly close to a new deal in Seattle

Jason La Canfora is reporting today that the Seahawks and Pete Carroll could be close to announcing a contract extension:

The Seahawks are working to secure just that proposition, sources said, with the “wheels beginning to turn” on a new contract that would keep him in Seattle well beyond this season.

Carroll has one year left on his current deal, and while the Seahawks’ ownership is in some long-term doubt after Paul Allen passed away, league sources said the team is likely at least three years from going to market and Carroll is in line for another extension before then given the exemplary record he has posted.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Regardless of any criticism about the 2020 off-season, Carroll is a legendary figure in Seattle. There’s a dearth of upcoming Head Coaching candidates with many teams over the last few years taking punts on trendy college coaches or simply appointing anyone who worked with Sean McVay over the last five years.

There are always coordinators worth taking a chance on. McVay himself is a classic example. Kyle Shanahan was born to be a Head Coach and with hindsight, the Falcons probably should’ve controversially replaced Dan Quinn with Shanahan after their Super Bowl loss. Matt Ryan won the MVP with Shanahan as coach. Since he left Atlanta, they’ve been horribly average.

Sean McDermott is another recent appointment who is succeeding.

Yet at the moment, the options appear really limited.

You need more than someone who can cook up a good scheme. You need a leader and someone who can set out a clear vision. You need a culture-builder.

Carroll has done this in Seattle and had sustained success. That’s not to say he shouldn’t be held to account. The Seahawks have won the NFC West only once in the last five years and despite the brilliance of Russell Wilson, they haven’t got close to returning to the Super Bowl. That has to change. You don’t have to want to fire the coach to state the need for progress. It’s high time the Seahawks took a step forward and pointing that out is perfectly fair.

Equally though, a change for changes sake isn’t a good idea. Bill Belichick had to wait a decade between Super Bowl wins number three and four. He then won three more Championship’s. The Seahawks can have success too, deep into Carroll’s tenure.

I’ve never thought for a second that the end of the Carroll era was near. There was a lot of click-bait nonsense written on other sites over the summer suggesting this could be the case. Carroll’s enthusiasm for coaching remains clear and obvious. I actually think the social justice aspect of this year (with Carroll constantly referring to this as ‘the season of protest’) is right up his street. If anything, this is probably inspiring him to continue for even longer to aid a cause he believes in.

The other thing to consider is the ownership situation that La Canfora also references. The Seahawks remain in a holding pattern. It’s unrealistic that the current ownership structure would remain for the long haul. Eventually someone will buy the team and begin a new era. La Canfora suggests this could be three years away.

Under the current ownership, nobody should expect any changes to the front office structure. One of the first things Jody Allen and her team did was give Pete Carroll a contract extension. They know the franchise needs stability and leadership. They know they have two respected and capable figures at the top of the tree in Carroll and Schneider.

Again though, it’s up to the pair to justify this trust and make the most of the faith and power invested in them. As you’re well aware by now, the Seahawks didn’t have a great off-season. They also face big challenges in the future. They only have a handful of players contracted for next season. There’s a strong possibility of a reduced salary cap. They have no first round pick until 2023. They need to come to an agreement with Jamal Adams on a massive extension and they’ll need to plan for the long term future at key positions such as left tackle.

They’ll also have to try and have another go at fixing the pass rush in 2021. Luckily, there are a long list of names scheduled to reach free agency next year:

Matt Judon
Leonard Williams
Melvin Ingram
Shaquil Barrett
Bud Dupree
Jadeveon Clowney
Yannick Ngakoue
Justin Houston
Ryan Kerrigan
Olivier Vernon
Solomon Thomas
Sheldon Rankins
Takk McKinley
Larry Ogunjobi

It’s also fairly likely Von Miller will depart Denver.

There are also a number of big-name offensive linemen reaching the market:

Brandon Scherff
Joe Thuney
Trent Williams
David Bakhtiari
Alex Mack
Mike Pouncey
Alejandro Villanueva
Ronnie Stanley

Some of these players will be retained by their clubs, obviously. Such as Ronnie Stanley. There will be, however, an opportunity to try and inject some needed talent in the trenches.

If Carroll is given a long term contract extension, securing the O-line and D-line should be the priority alongside extending Adams’ contract.

***UPDATE***

Ian Rapoport is also now reporting on Carroll’s contract, although he hasn’t credited La Canfora for being the first to reveal the news.

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New podcast & analysis of PFF’s Seahawks grades

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Before getting into today’s article, please check out our latest podcast finishing off the Atlanta game talk and moving on to a preview of the Patriots game.

The Seattle Seahawks are very reliant on three players.

Everyone knows how important Russell Wilson is.

Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner are essentially the defensive version.

It’s not even worth considering what Seattle’s defense would look like without their elite pair.

There’s room for improvement with certain players. It’d be unfair to judge Quinton Dunbar after one game, especially after a challenging pre-season.

Yet the week one PFF grades below speak for themselves. The sheer brilliance of Adams masked a lot of warts on Sunday. And regardless of the degree in which Russell Wilson is donning a chef’s hat and apron — they are going to need much more from their defense to make a serious run.

PFF grades on defense

Bobby Wagner — 87.3
Jamal Adams — 85.8
K.J. Wright — 71.2
Damontre Moore — 70.1 (on 20 or so snaps)
Jordyn Brooks — 69.5 (again barely any snaps)
Lano Hill — 65.8
Bruce Irvin — 63.4
Rasheem Green — 62.3
Jarran Reed – 60.6
Poona Ford— 58.7
Benson Mayowa — 56.3
L.J. Collier — 55.7
Quandre Diggs — 53.8
Shaquill Griffin — 52.1
Marquise Blair — 44.9
Quinton Dunbar — 40.6

Here’s how PFF explain their grading scale:

100-90 – Elite
89-85 – Pro Bowler
84-70 – Starter
69-60 – Backup
59-0 – Replaceable

You might say it’s only one game. Yet it confirms all previous fears about this defense. A couple of stars (Wagner, Adams) but serious issues elsewhere.

Look at how the starting D-line graded:

Jarran Reed – 60.6
Poona Ford— 58.7
Benson Mayowa — 56.3
L.J. Collier — 55.7

All but Reed graded above the lowest ‘replacement level’ grade — and he only just avoided it.

This isn’t just a ‘could be better’ situation. It’s a serious problem.

Take Benson Mayowa for example. Many will be surprised at his 56.3 grade. What you’ve got to remember though is he’s being asked to do a role he’s never done before (and possibly isn’t suited to). He’s always been a rotational defensive end. Some might say, that’s what he’s best at. Yet in Seattle he played 71 snaps — the fifth most on defense.

As a rotational piece, Mayowa is a solid option. As a premier rusher? The results are somewhat represented in the grade. He will flash from time-to-time but is he able to hold up the end of a line for +70 snaps week-in and week-out and deliver a consistent performance? Arguably not.

It didn’t cost the Seahawks against Atlanta because of the brilliance of Wilson and the up-tempo, pro-active, aggressive offensive game plan. If they can do that most weeks, they might be able to cover up the problem like an unwanted pimple. That pimple, that blemish, will still be there though.

The concern will be that come the serious games that decide division titles and playoff progress, this level of performance simply won’t be good enough.

It’s a real shame too. We saw a glimpse of Seattle’s potential on Sunday. Elite level players displaying their talents. Complementary players on offense to support the QB.

There shouldn’t be a single unit on this team threatening to ruin anything. Not after the veritable splurge Seattle had this year.

You can’t be great everywhere. It’s unrealistic.

You also can’t be terrible somewhere and hope to be serious contenders.

Look at the Chiefs in 2018. Patrick Mahomes was unbelievable. The offense was dynamic and at times unstoppable. They won 12 games. Yet they came unstuck in the playoffs because the defense was a problem. Thus — they traded for Frank Clark and made a big splash to land Tyrann Mathieu.

It’s surprising they haven’t acted this week. D’Andre Walker, as much as I liked him at Georgia, hasn’t played football in nearly two years. The chances of him having an impact this year are remote at best. If Alton Robinson can’t get activated, what chance has Walker got?

Seahawks fans are generally not big supporters of Clay Matthews. It shouldn’t have ever come to needing him as an emergency signing in mid-September. I won’t go over old ground but they should’ve signed other players long before now.

Yet surely it’s better to have him on the roster, providing something, rather than D’Andre Walker?

The fact that he isn’t here can only be down to money. Seattle has cap space to play with but that doesn’t mean they’re going to automatically match Everson Griffen’s salary in Dallas for example. Presumably Matthews wants a certain amount and interested parties such as Seattle and Denver have so far not matched it.

They also need a defensive tackle. Someone to absorb space on early downs and provide interior stoutness versus the run. Those players are available but again, what are they asking for?

With contracts no longer guaranteed now that the season has begun, there’s nothing to lose in adding a player or two and seeing how it goes. In a few weeks time you can make a call — especially if the trade market offers better options as teams fall out of contention. Last year the trade for Quandre Diggs was inspired. They need to find a D-line version somewhere in 2020.

They brought in Breeland Speaks for a tryout this week. Speaks was the #46 overall pick in 2018 but struggled for form and health in Kansas City.

The Chiefs draft for physical ideals in the first two rounds. Look at their early picks over the last few years. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Willie Gay Jr, Mecole Hardman, Juan Thornhill, Breeland Speaks, Patrick Mahomes, Tanoh Kpassagnon. They seek out high upside in terms of explosive traits and speed. You can also include Frank Clark in this list. He possessed the best combination of explosive athleticism and agility to enter the league in the last 10 years.

Speaks ran an impressive 4.87 forty at 283lbs, a 1.64 10-yard split and he has good length (34 inch arms). His highlights tape was strong but his overall play at Ole Miss was inconsistent.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a look at Speaks. However, there’s not a great history of second round picks being dumped after two years then emerging as key role players elsewhere, after sitting on the open market for a couple of weeks.

Neither is he really what the Seahawks need. He’s more of an inside/out type or a nickel interior rusher. Seattle badly needs a proper EDGE threat and a good interior run defender.

Even so — he’s probably willing to accept a job for a modest price.

In terms of the PFF grades on offense, unsurprisingly Wilson led the way:

Russell Wilson — 91.2
Duane Brown — 75.9
Tyler Lockett — 74.6
Greg Olsen — 71.4
Jacob Hollister — 70.1
D.K. Metcalf — 68.8
Damien Lewis — 67.9
Chris Carson — 65.2
Brandon Shell — 64.4
Freddie Swain — 63.9
David Moore — 60.5
Nick Bellore — 60.0
Luke Willson — 60.0
Penny Hart — 60.0
Jordan Simmons — 58.5
Travis Homer — 58.5
Carlos Hyde — 57.2
Ethan Pocic — 55.2
Will Dissly — 52.9
Mike Iupati — 37.9

The big concern here is the performance of Iupati and Pocic. It’s perhaps not surprising that the Seahawks gave Jordan Simmons some snaps at left guard. If this grade becomes a trend for Pocic, it’ll increase the chances of Justin Britt returning.

The positives are Brandon Shell must’ve recovered to get a 64.4 given the way he started the game. Damien Lewis had a good debut and Duane Brown was superb. Seattle’s key playmakers all graded well too.

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Don’t ignore Mike Florio’s report on Russell Wilson’s future

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

This was brought to my attention yesterday but I decided to let things rest for 24 hours. Russell Wilson’s relationship with the Seahawks is a delicate topic.

Fans don’t want to contemplate any possibility that he isn’t completely and wholly satisfied with the team.

So when Mike Florio announced on Sunday Night Football that Wilson had told the Seahawks — ‘let me cook or we’re going to have a problem’ — the reaction was quite predictable.

There were several mentions of the no-trade clause in his contract. Others suggested Florio wasn’t a reliable source of information (to put it politely).

However, this is something we’ve touched on a bit this year — with good reason.

Let’s start with a quick recap of the situation.

Ten days ago I wrote about the subject in my review of the off-season:

This has been a different off-season for Wilson. He’s been more outspoken for sure. He called on the team to sign superstars at the Pro-Bowl. He liked tweets about big name skill players in the draft. He had a very public workout with Antonio Brown.

People he’s very close with in the media have been very critical of the Seahawks. Colin Cowherd, a confidant of Wilson’s, casually compared his situation to Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs QB has the offense tailored to him, he has input in their draft picks and they’ve supported him with weapons galore, pass protection and a complementary defense.

Wilson wants to win so badly he named his newborn son after the word. Yet in the last five years the Seahawks have only won their division once. Forget Super Bowls. They can’t even win the NFC West.

He’s seen the ‘Let Russ Cook’ stuff because he’s a social media addict. He’ll know as well as anyone the strong and weak areas of the roster.

Would anyone blame him for feeling like he’s taken for granted? He doesn’t have Mahomes’ weapons, offensive freedom and too often he needs to drag the team back from a massive deficit because they’ve started slowly or they’re ill-equipped to deal with an opponent from the first whistle.

I’m not for a second implying that Wilson is on the brink of demanding a trade or doesn’t see his future in Seattle. I do think, however, that this time will come unless the Seahawks match the ambitions of their star player.

To me it was a simple reading of the tea leaves. Wilson constantly talks about wanting to be known as the greatest ‘winner’ in the history of the NFL. That won’t happen if he ends his career with the same number of Super Bowl rings as Nick Foles, Joe Flacco and Trent Dilfer. He has one fewer ring than Eli Manning currently.

It’s clear that he wants to be a Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Lebron James type figure. A multi-year champion. One of the all-time greats.

Not only is he not achieving success in terms of titles, he’s not even getting any MVP votes.

He turns 32 in November and he’s very much in the peak years of his career. Even if he plays for another 10 seasons, he won’t possess this combination of athleticism and knowledge for much longer. He’s in a rush to succeed and if the Seahawks cannot take him to where he wants to go — it’s not improbable to imagine a Cleveland/Lebron type situation emerging.

The Seahawks have been treading water for far too long. It’s six years since their last Super Bowl run. Since then, they haven’t come close to returning to the big game. Yet both the Rams and Niners have elevated to that level, despite previously being perennial losers.

I don’t believe Wilson is planning his departure. I think his ideal situation is to play for the Seahawks for the rest of his career and win Championships.

I do think, however, he’s applying a bit of pressure to a franchise that needed a kick up the arse. Especially after a strange off-season where they failed to do much of anything in free agency and only really improved by trading the house for Jamal Adams right before training camp.

Fans should probably be grateful. Would you rather Wilson be fat and happy about his massive contract and 10-11 wins a year? Or would you rather the star player be setting a high bar for the team?

He wants more control of the offense. He knows they can’t rely on the trench play to win so it’s time to take the game to opponents.

And the good news is based on the win in Atlanta, the Seahawks are listening.

But that doesn’t mean Wilson’s concerns don’t exist or that what Florio said is untrue.

Let’s go back to the two counters fans are making for his report.

Firstly, the no-trade clause. I think we’ve all watched enough sports to know what these are all about. This isn’t a handcuff for the player to prevent him going anywhere else. This is a handcuff for the team to prevent them trading him somewhere he doesn’t want to go.

If Wilson said to Seattle, ‘I want out’, the no-trade clause wouldn’t be a factor in the slightest. The Seahawks could reject that request. They could try to build bridges. They could offer him more money. They could also determine that the relationship had broken and that it’d be best for both parties to move on.

The no-trade clause prevents them sending him somewhere like Jacksonville or Cleveland. The team would have to work with the player to find a reasonable new home in order to waive the clause.

The two parties are not locked together in the slightest.

Secondly there’s the credibility of the person breaking the news.

I’ve been a journalist for a long time. Regardless of what you think about Florio, you never say the following unless you are absolutely certain:

“I know for a fact that that conversation was had in a very poignant fashion with the team in a not quite flat-out ultimatum but the message is clear — let Russ cook or, I was told by a source close to Russell Wilson, you’re going to be baking the farewell cake.”

He states it as a fact that the conversation was had and then cites a source close to Wilson. You don’t make that up. If you’re not entirely sure about something, you might say you ‘understand’ something to be true. You might say you’ve ‘heard’ a few whispers.

When you state something is a fact and refer to a source close to the player, you’re speaking with 100% confidence. He didn’t hedge his bets in the slightest.

It might be convenient for Seahawks fans to assume he has made it up and that all is hunky dory. Florio’s language, if you’re willing to be open-minded about his report, is convincing.

And nobody else has disputed what he’s reported.

So who is Florio’s source?

You only have to cast your mind back to the contract negotiations in 2015 and 2019. Florio was a regular reporter from the perspective of the Wilson camp. Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent, has appeared on PFT and has been interviewed by Florio.

This is merely speculation on my behalf, of course. Yet if you’re wondering what kind of relationship Florio has with the Wilson camp, or who the source might be, you don’t have to be Poirot to work it out.

Again — this doesn’t mean Wilson’s time in Seattle is coming to an end. It simply means it’s time for the Seahawks to match the ambitions of their star player and do what it takes to contend.

Based on the Atlanta game, the early signs are positive.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks open with a big win

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

Nobody can ever accuse Pete Carroll of being stuck in his ways.

After an off-season of ‘let Russ cook’ ringing around the internet — Carroll delivered what many have asked for. Including, probably, his quarterback.

Having watched Patrick Mahomes guide the Chiefs to a Championship earlier this year, the Seahawks are clearly prepared to live and die by their star player.

That’s the right call.

This version of the roster is simply not capable of playing complementary football. We saw why today. Matt Ryan was given the freedom of Atlanta. The defensive line couldn’t do anything in terms of pass rush or run defense.

The only way this Seahawks team can succeed is to take the game to opponents. No more ‘can you win a game in the first quarter?’ stuff. They have to attack, be on the front foot and force teams into mistakes.

Had they played to shorten the game today, they would’ve been pummelled. Ryan predictably finished with 450 yards (10 fewer than Matt Schuab a year ago). They ran with ease when it was viable to do so. They scored 25 points.

This used to be unheard of in the LOB era but this is how it’s going to be in 2020.

The solution is to force Atlanta into situations they don’t want to be in. Today, that meant going for it on fourth down four times — all ended in failed attempts. It means having to abandon the run (which was an easy source of yards) because they’re chasing the scoreboard.

Seattle impacted the Falcons via points. Not physical pressure.

The Carroll Seahawks cannot be the Carroll Seahawks this year. Otherwise they will lose games. They have to let Russ cook. They have to roll with Russ.

The interesting thing will be to see if they can play like this every week. No opponent could’ve predicted the Seahawks would do this today. Next week, Bill Belichick will know it’s coming.

Can Seattle do what Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan do and continue to find creative ways to attack opponents?

They’ll need to. As good as this was as a start — now comes the real challenge for this new look offense.

Major positives and striking negatives

Jamal Adams had a debut to savour. He led the team in tackles (12), had a sack, two TFL’s and two QB hits. Somehow, this barely tells the story of his impact.

Anyone who saw him in New York knew he was an incredible player. Today, those who maybe hadn’t seem him before got a glimpse of what he’s all about. He’s a very different player to Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas but he might be even more talented. That doesn’t mean he’ll be as impactful as Kam as the soul and heartbeat of the team — yet on the field, he possesses rare qualities.

Kudos to Carroll and Ken Norton for finding creative ways to get him involved. Hopefully, this is the start of a 16-game tour de force.

It was also good to see Bobby Wagner perform well in coverage and have a strong opening weekend.

However, all fears about the defensive line were emphatically confirmed. Throughout the game I just kept thinking — imagine this team with even a fairly decent D-line.

There was no resistance in the running game as Atlanta consistently gashed the Seahawks in the first half. Only this time an opponent didn’t need any tricks, sweeps or misdirection.

Just run straight at Seattle. You will get yards.

Aside from Benson Mayowa’s pursuit on a coverage sack (which was a great and timely play to be fair) — the Seahawks only created any pressure when they blitzed. Sometimes that will be fine. Some opponents, possibly the three dynamic offensive NFC West rivals, will exploit that dependency on blitzing.

The four man rush was as impotent as expected. And for all the positives within this game, you can’t help but feel that Wilson, Wagner and Adams are going to be let down by this D-line at some point.

Offensively there were issues too. The O-line, unsurprisingly, had a rough start. Wilson was hammered far too often in the first half. That will be a consequence of a pass-happy attack and will come with the territory. However, Brandon Shell did not deliver a reassuring performance at right tackle. Damien Lewis also had some rookie moments and I need to watch Ethan Pocic at center more closely to judge.

This is a big test for the offensive line under a new offensive approach. There’s never been so much reliance on the quarterback before. They are in charge of his safety. They’re no longer going to be relied upon to run block and with Wilson scrambling to avoid pressure.

That said, Wilson did deliver a statement performance that he intends to be in the MVP race again this year. He can only do that with stats, big wins and an offense based around him for the first time. This was a terrific start including a 143.1 quarterback rating, four touchdowns and 351 total yards.

Perhaps more importantly, the Seahawks showed they can start faster and better with great tempo.

It’s also testament to the style they played that third down didn’t really matter. Too often in Wilson’s career, it’s basically decided games. Today they went 3/9 and it never felt like a factor.

This was a good start but next week will be an interesting test. Despite losing half a defense and Tom Brady, Belichick’s Patriots found a way to handle the upstart Dolphins today. It’s still a game the Seahawks should win though. So go win it.

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New podcast: Seahawks @ Falcons preview

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

In the latest podcast Robbie and I run through the season opener in Atlanta. Please spread the word for the new podcast, share and like the video on YouTube and let us know what your thoughts are on the game in the comments section.

2020 prediction post: More of the same for the Seahawks

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

One NFC West Championship in the last five years.

Early playoff eliminations.

Between nine and eleven wins.

This is what the Seahawks have come to be since their Super Bowl run in 2014. It’s where I think they’ll continue to be this year.

I’m not going to rehash points made in the detailed review of the off-season posted over the weekend. Yet ultimately I don’t think the Seahawks made best use of their resources this year and they failed to sufficiently address their most glaring need.

They did make a significant addition in Jamal Adams — although at a great cost. Yet it’s fair to wonder if Adams’ impact (and that of a very expensive linebacker corps) will be impacted playing behind what could realistically be the worst defensive line in the NFL.

On offense the addition of Greg Olsen should be a positive, as will the return of Will Dissly if he can stay healthy. D.K. Metcalf has more experience and will be expected to take another step forward. There are questions about the O-line though with three new starters. Ethan Pocic, a draft bust, is at center almost by default. Damien Lewis is a rookie, even if he has a lot of potential. Brandon Shell was benched by the Jets last year.

It’s also worth noting that Duane Brown is now 35-years-old and Mike Iupati is 33.

Russell Wilson is talented enough to prevent the Seahawks ever going lower than nine wins. For him to reach that point in 2017 when everything went against the Seahawks is testament to his qualities. We’ve pretty much seen a worst-case scenario with him at quarterback.

He’s also good enough for the Seahawks to overachieve in terms of win/loss record, as we saw a year ago. They had no business coming within a yard of 12 wins. I don’t think we’ll see another team get to 11 wins with a seven-point differential ever again. They were 9-2 in games decided by seven points or less. No team has ever matched that in the modern era. Seattle also won five games when trailing by +7 points and three games when trailing by +10 points. This is unheard of in the NFL and feels somewhat unsustainable.

Many people like to point to last season as evidence that the Seahawks were on the right track or deserve to be considered an established contender. I never felt that way. To me they looked like a team that needed another off-season. That’s partly why this year has been such a crushing disappointment — they had the money and draft picks to take the next step and I don’t believe they did enough to fix their biggest problems in the trenches.

Wilson’s sheer quality and some fortune gave them a record that was arguably a mirage. After all, consider the following wins:

— Beat the Bengals in week one by a single point, despite Cincinnati going on to claim the worst record in the NFL. Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards and two touchdowns.

— Only just defeated the Steelers 28-26 despite playing half the game against a backup quarterback.

— Won against the LA Rams 30-29 thanks to a missed kick by Greg Zuerlein.

— Beat a struggling Cleveland Browns team 32-28 thanks, mainly, to a horrendous performance by Baker Mayfield.

— Almost blew a handsome half-time advantage against a 1-6 Atlanta Falcons team on a day where Matt Schaub threw for 460 yards.

— Needed Wilson magic to out-gun Tampa Bay 40-34 in overtime on a day when the defense couldn’t do anything to stop Jameis Winston.

— Won in Santa Clara against the Niners thanks to a solo performance by Jadeveon Clowney and a missed kick by the stop-gap San Francisco kicker.

— Almost threw away comfortable leads against Minnesota (home) and Carolina (road).

Over the years I’ve often said a ‘win’s a win’ — especially during some of the messier periods of the Carroll era. That remains the case with the above. Whether you win by one point or 20 — it’s the same result.

The point is though — it would’ve only taken two of the above to swing the other way (such as the missed kicks by the Rams and Niners) and suddenly you’re looking at a nine-win season and no playoffs.

So yes — the Seahawks were close to winning the NFC West. They were also close to not making the post-season too.

I do an instant reaction piece after every game and have done for years. Sometimes I think it’s useful to look back and see how you feel about a game immediately after it. In May I revised how I felt about the 2019 season. Here are some highlights (the name of the article is in bold):

Seahawks beat themselves, lose to Saints
“Whether it was poor preparation, execution, decision making or play-calling — this was a terrible performance.”

Seahawks’ luck runs out, they drop to 5-2
“Nothing will ever top the 2017 beat-down by the Rams. Yet these two games — against the Saints and now the Ravens — are extremely concerning. It pulls the curtain back on the reality with this team. You can get after them, even at Century Link Field.”

Seahawks struggle unnecessarily in Atlanta
“Today they faced an Atlanta team on its knees. They were 1-6 coming into today and without key players, including quarterback Matt Ryan. Seattle rolled to a 24-0 lead by half-time and the rout was on. Finish the game. Go back home. No stress, for once. Assert your will. Dominate. Show some teeth. Set the tone. The Seahawks lost the second half 20-3. They were less tiger and more kitten. Matt Schaub ended up throwing for 460 yards. Atlanta had thirty first downs.”

Russell Wilson saves the Seahawks
“In 2018 the Seahawks regained their identity. A year later, they’ve lost it again. The Seahawks are 7-2 and it’s 100% down to their MVP candidate playing quarterback. Russell Wilson is a genius. At the exact moment his team has needed him to take yet another step forward — he’s pulled it off.”

Seahawks flop in LA, drop to 10-3
In the last five games between these teams, the Rams have scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28. In other words, the Seahawks were either going to need to turn this into their type of game or they needed to score a lot of points. They did neither. They’ve now lost four of the last five games to LA with the solitary win coming off a missed field goal. The Seahawks aren’t chasing the Rams in the NFC West this year but they’re still chasing them on the field.”

Injury-hit Seahawks lose to Cardinals
“Very few teams can withstand this number of injuries. This was still a humbling afternoon. They were beaten, handily, in all four facet’s of the game — offense, defense, special teams and coaching. They suffered a third home spanking of the season. If they lose to the Niners next week, they’ll finish 4-4 at home and they’ll be 14-10 at home over the last three seasons.”

Seahawks come within an inch
“The game also highlighted, again, Seattle’s greatest weakness moving forward. The defense has struggled all year to create pressure and impact games. If they’re going to take the next step in 2020 they cannot field a D-line as inadequate as this again. Even a modicum of pressure or resistance could’ve been the difference today. It was simply too easy for the 49ers.”

Seahawks beaten in Green day
“They have to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney. They can’t rebuild their D-line by allowing their top player, at a great age, to walk away for nothing in free agency. They desperately need to add a speed rusher who can trouble offensive tackles with quickness and burst. Whether it’s going out and signing Dante Fowler, trading for someone like Von Miller or a different move entirely — the main thing the pass rush (and defense in general) is lacking is speed. A talent infusion is needed on the D-line.”

There were big problems a year ago. That’s why I often trot out the defensive horror stats that I listed in Saturday’s article.

The hope for many is that Jamal Adams can help provide a tougher edge to the defense this year. He will also provide a needed X-factor. Yet many of the issues still remain. Improved speed in the pass rush is going to rest on the shoulders of a soon-to-be 33-year-old SAM linebacker. They haven’t increased their talent on the D-line. Many of the key issues from 2019 simply remain.

They now run the risk of developing into a team relying on the quarterback. There’s nothing massively unusual about that. Green Bay relied on Aaron Rodgers for years. That in itself is part of the problem though. The Seahawks have kind of become the Packers. Rodgers won one Super Bowl then struggled, year after year, to get back there. He’s actually returned to the NFC Championship game so they’ve got closer than Seattle. Yet ultimately his supporting cast wasn’t good enough, his defense wasn’t good enough, the defensive scheme was stale and could be exploited and the Packers consistently lost to more physical teams.

The Seahawks face the same issues now. You expect great things because of Wilson. However there’s too much responsibility on his shoulders. Teams do exploit Seattle’s weaknesses and the defensive scheme hasn’t changed in a decade. They play in a conference where one coach (Sean McVay) has got all of the answers for Pete Carroll’s defense and Kyle Shanahan did what he wanted in week 17 last season with the pass rush on its knees.

Part of the problem for me comes down to Carroll’s desire to play complete-circle football. He wants everything to connect — the offense, defense and special teams. The running game and the defense. Ball control and takeaways.

There’s nothing wrong with that philosophy. It won Seattle a Championship. Yet for too long now they’ve not had a completed circle. The running game was a hot mess in 2017. The defense hasn’t been good enough for the last two years. Can anyone remember the last time Seattle’s special teams unit was a positive?

If you set out to play connected football with missing pieces it just won’t work.

I don’t have much sympathy with the ‘Let Russ Cook’ movement on twitter. It’s mostly shit-posting anyway. It’s hard to argue though that the Seahawks wouldn’t be better off just living or dying on the arm of Wilson given the major question marks at other positions.

I’m not convinced they’re good enough to play complementary football.

Having said all that, Wilson is still an incredible player. It won’t be a surprise, for example, if the Seahawks defense struggles horribly against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, gives up another 450-500 passing yards and Seattle still wins because of Wilson.

That’s why I think they have a floor of about nine wins with their quarterback.

The frustrating thing is with a different off-season they could’ve realistically been pushing for 13 or 14 wins. Even in the NFC West. A concerted effort to properly address the trenches followed by the Adams trade and you’d be looking at a veritable powerhouse.

I think we’ll see a similar pattern to 2019. Close games, often high-scoring, where Wilson will need to carry the team. There will be high points, probably because of Wilson. I also think they will have beatings similar to the losses against New Orleans, Baltimore and LA.

I do think they will make the playoffs. That’s easier this year anyway with seven teams making it. I think, ultimately, they won’t go any further than the wildcard or divisional round (again).

If that’s the case, especially if the pass rush holds them back, I think next year will be intriguing. They won’t have the means to do much in terms of additions in free agency or the draft. There will be players they need to make a call on in terms of contracts. I don’t think Wilson is going to accept many more years where the Seahawks make the post-season because of his presence, only to fall at the first or second hurdle because of glaring issues in terms of roster building. If he was more outspoken this year, imagine what next year could be like if history repeats.

My prediction for the Seahawks in 2020 is 10-6.

Game-by-game predictions

Atlanta (A) — L
New England (H) — W
Dallas (H) — L
Miami (A) — W
Minnesota (H) — L
Arizona (A) — W
San Francisco (H) — L
Buffalo (A) — W
LA Rams (A) — L
Arizona (H) — W
Philadelphia (A) — W
New York Giants (H) — W
New York Jets (H) — W
Washington (A) — W
LA Rams (H) — W
San Francisco (A) — L

Super Bowl champion prediction — Kansas City

I think the unusual season is perfectly suited for the defending champions. They have a settled roster, have avoided any kind of off-season drama and are very capable of carrying on where they left off. They know what they are, what they need to do and I think Patrick Mahomes will cement himself as the player of his generation.

Feel free to post your own predictions in the comments section.

One final thought for today. The LA Rams have just agreed a record-breaking contract with Jalen Ramsey worth around $20m a year.

Both the Rams with Ramsey and the Texans with Laremy Tunsil had to pay well over the odds because they failed to agree terms on a new contract before completing trades.

The Seahawks are facing a similar dilemma with Jamal Adams.

They have no leverage in negotiations. They either have to pay up or give up two first round picks on a short-term rental.

Adams is probably going to want to top Ramsey’s deal and become the highest paid defensive back in the league. The Seahawks might have to go beyond $20m a year which would be an eye-watering amount for the position.

All three teams warrant criticism for making these trades without a new contract being part of the agreement. It’s completely reckless. As soon as the ink is dry on the trade, all leverage is conceded to the player.

The Seahawks faced the prospect of starting the 2020 season with the only significant differences to their defense being Benson Mayowa replacing Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Irvin replacing Mychal Kendricks. That’s why they made the Adams trade a month before the season started. You could call it a panic move, very easily.

Perhaps the nature of it being somewhat a desperation trade played into the lack of forward planning on a contract? Either way, it’s going to cost them big time in terms of cap space down the line.

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Eight things that I think about the Seahawks this week

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

1. Mixed messages from Pete Carroll

Seattle’s Head Coach was asked about Jadeveon Clowney twice in yesterday’s press conference but his answer contradicted itself.

He started by saying, “We were involved throughout” and then later added, “We were in it the whole time… We were with him the whole time in the discussion… John (Schneider) was in on all of it.

Yet he also said, “We moved on, you know, for the most part well early in the offseason.”

Unfortunately the message from Carroll was as muddled as Seattle’s approach to fixing the pass rush.

Frankly they needed to pick one of the options. Be with Clowney ‘the whole time’ and get a deal done or move on and sign someone else — such as Everson Griffen, who was available for a very modest $6m.

2. Carroll is well aware of the situation

It was a flat press conference with very little energy. It was reminiscent of the conference immediately following the first round of the 2019 draft. It’s easy to tell when Carroll isn’t happy. It was written all over his face here.

He bristled at the modest handful of questions about the pass rush. When asked directly if they’d improved the unit from a year ago, he simply spoke about the hope that Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa’s 2019 sack production would translate and that Jarran Reed could return to 2018 form.

Carroll also used the word ‘anxious’ several times when discussing how he needs to see both lines at the weekend. This doesn’t have to be construed as a negative. You can be anxious to see something in a positive sense too. Yet to me, it all contributed to reveal how Carroll actually feels. His body language, his words, the way he chose to answer questions.

He knows this defensive line is a problem and I think he is concerned. I think he was flat because the goalposts have moved. For weeks and months the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen remained available. Carroll publicly revealed his expectation that there would be some surprise cuts that could lead to an opportunity before the season started.

Now Clowney and Griffen are gone and those surprise cuts didn’t materialise.

He knows they’ll be walking into Atlanta with more hope than expectation that this is going to work out OK. It’s not just the D-line either. He said he was anxious about the O-line too and rightly so with three new starters — including a draft bust, a rookie and a player benched by the Jets last year.

The Seahawks will start the season with a potential glaring problem in the trenches that isn’t going to be easy to solve. It’ll probably be giving Carroll sleepless nights.

3. It was a disappointing press conference

This was the ideal opportunity for Seattle’s media to quiz Carroll on the defensive line. After all, both he and Schneider said fixing the pass rush was the priority this off-season.

Kudos to Art Thiel for asking whether the D-line had improved from last year. There should’ve been more questions though. Had they faced unexpected issues in addressing this need? Is the lack of depth at defensive tackle, with only three on the roster, a concern? Have they addressed this issue as much as they would’ve liked? How does Carroll feel about PFF ranking the D-line as the worst in the league?

None of these questions are unfair or particularly mischievous. They were relevant though. Even if you’re willing to give the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt on their pass rush ‘repair’, you’d surely at least acknowledge this is a topic that warrants some examination and some digging?

It would’ve been nice to see a bit more done in this area. In 20 minutes there were two blasts at the Clowney topic and Thiel’s question on the D-line. More time was spent on the impact of Covid testing, how Carroll felt about the impacted pre-season and protests — all of which has been covered in great detail already. Carroll even dedicated a whole conference to an impassioned speech on social justice.

It would’ve been nice to flesh out a bit more on how the pass rush priority ended up equating to losing Clowney, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods and only signing modest replacements. This could be the defining factor of the season after all. Even if you anticipate Carroll batting away the questions — you still have to ask them.

4. Carroll’s praise for Ethan Pocic felt forced

Pocic was named the starter for next Sunday with Carroll stating:

“He had a great camp. Ethan had offseason surgery on something that’s been bothering him for a number of years, an athletic hernia thing that he’s been dealing with. All I can tell you is he did a great job in camp and looked terrific. He was our most experienced guy with handling the whole system and all, and it showed. So we’re fired up to see him go.”

The thing is, we already know the Seahawks worked out Justin Britt last week and tried (but failed) to re-sign him. He’s since travelled to Green Bay for a try-out.

If Pocic had enjoyed a ‘terrific’ and ‘great’ camp — you wouldn’t be needing to try and re-sign Britt the week before the season.

The truth is if Britt and the Seahawks had agreed terms, he could’ve been starting on Sunday having been rushed back for kick off.

5. The Seahawks need to assess how they operate in 2021

How many times did you hear the words, ‘they’re not finished yet’ or something along those lines?

From free agency to the draft to even this week. Everyone assumed they would do more because quite simply, they had to do more.

This has to change in the future.

The Seahawks need to get out of this recent habit of needing to address crucial needs when the main roster building events (free agency & draft) are complete.

Last year they had to rush Ziggy Ansah in after the draft to fill a glaring hole at pass rush. With hindsight, the Seahawks badly misjudged that addition given he played through semi-retirement in 2019. He wasn’t healthy and he didn’t look particularly motivated.

Thus they ran the risk of going into the off-season relying on Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Martin and Cassius Marsh for a pass rush until Houston bailed them out with the Clowney trade. This year, no such bailing out occurred.

So despite all the calls throughout the summer and during camp that they wouldn’t be finished — actually they were. They didn’t sign other players and instead of Mingo, Martin and Marsh they’re now relying on Mayowa, Green and Irvin.

Next year, if there’s a problem to be solved — get it done in March. Don’t assume things will be OK down the line.

The Seahawks shouldn’t be banking on last minute antidotes.

6. I’m not sure it’s going to happen for Quinton Dunbar

He was already playing catchup when the allegation of armed robbery was dropped. However, in the last week he’s also been away from the team again for an unknown reason and now he’s being freshly linked with the DeAndre Baker case.

Who knows whether this will lead to any future legal trouble but it could certainly have an impact on the NFL’s decision over a possible suspension.

Regardless of his work with Marquand Manuel — he’s still learning a new scheme that other players have struggled to pickup. Maybe it’s just a hunch but I’m anticipating Tre Flowers as a starting cornerback in 2020 — not just for week one.

7. Clay Matthews on the way?

Don’t be surprised if he goes through Covid testing by the end of the week to enter Seattle’s bubble. Michael Silver linked Matthews to Seattle weeks ago — as did Tony Pauline last week.

D’Andre Walker is simply on an extended trial. He had a good career at Georgia and flashed talent. Yet injuries led to a fall to round five and he didn’t play a down for the Titans before being cut.

He’s worth having a look at and it seems pretty obvious that’s what Seattle is doing. Nobody should expect him to be active this weekend though. He hasn’t played for nearly two years.

If he doesn’t flash, doesn’t seem 100% healthy or if the Seahawks struggle in Atlanta, Matthews will probably be brought in to take his place.

8. A thought on the Falcons game

You won’t be surprised to read that I think the Seahawks’ D-line is going to struggle on Sunday. I think this is a difficult first game for the unit. Matt Ryan has had plenty of success against Seattle’s defense as has Julio Jones. The chances are they will both put up huge numbers and if I had either in a fantasy team — they would be gold star starters.

However, that doesn’t mean Atlanta will win.

The key for Seattle, in my view, is going to be keeping up. That’ll be on Russell Wilson — something we’ll say a few times this year. He can also have success against Atlanta’s defense. If he can keep scoring and keep Seattle in the game, they’ll have a shot to win and it could come down to which team holds their nerve at the end.

If Wilson can’t keep up, however, it could be a long day. The Seahawks have a terrible opening day record under Carroll on the road (1-5) and even when they’ve won at home against bad teams like Miami and Cincinnati they’ve made hard work of it. They do not start seasons well — often playing squalid, frustrating, sloppy football.

Fortunately the Falcons have a similar recent history. They are 2-3 in season openers over the last five years. This includes poor losses to Minnesota (28-12), Philadelphia (18-12) and Tampa Bay (31-24). Their two wins were narrow and close against the Bears (23-17) and Eagles (26-24).

The chances are it will be a close game at least in terms of the scoreline — possibly because neither team has a reputation for starting well. Again though — in order for the Seahawks to stay in it and have a chance they’re going to need Wilson to be on top form and they’re going to have to bend not break on defense.

Ryan is going to get yards galore against this pass rush. Matt Schaub managed 460 last season and don’t forget even Andy Dalton had 418 in week one a year ago. Red zone defense will be crucial for Seattle to limit the damage in terms of points to give their own star quarterback a chance to steal a victory.

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New podcast: The Seahawks are O-lining the D-line

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Here you go… our thoughts.

Let’s be honest — the Seahawks failed their off-season test

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Pete Carroll faces a huge season in Seattle after a disappointing few months

It was the last domino to fall. The one thing that could’ve potentially saved the day.

Signing Jadeveon Clowney wouldn’t have cured all of Seattle’s ills on the defensive line. Yet it would’ve at least provided a player with some X-factor.

A player capable of winning you a game, just as he did in San Francisco or against the Eagles in the playoffs.

The Seahawks could’ve boasted a star at every level of their defense — Clowney, Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams.

His addition would’ve at least meant keeping the one player worth a darn on your D-line from a year ago. While people like to focus on his lack of sacks in 2019 — it’s often forgotten he had 18.5 in his previous two years in Houston and had a pressure percentage rate last year similar to Joey Bosa and Aaron Donald.

Instead, he’s joining the Tennessee Titans while the Seahawks apparently merely ‘monitored the situation’ from afar.

Now they will move on and no doubt add a Clay Matthews and maybe whoever’s left at defensive tackle. They will hope that a rag-tag cast of older players, career backups and unproven prospects can prevent a wasted season.

This was never about Clowney. He was simply the only player left to hope for. If they weren’t going to sign him, they should’ve added other players to dramatically improve their D-line. They emphatically failed to do this.

The reality is this is a defense that relies on rushing with four. That means, for all the investment at linebacker and safety, they’re going to be relying on Benson Mayowa and Rasheem Green.

It gives me no pleasure to say the Seahawks’ off-season has been a mess. People will talk themselves into believing it isn’t. That’s fine. It’s not my intention to ruin any week-before-the-season excitement. If you want to operate in that airspace, that’s fine. You might want to skip the rest of this article.

If you’re still with me and are willing to be open minded as to why I’ve come to the conclusion I have, I’m going to run through the gamut of errors that have delivered a missed opportunity to take a big step forward.

1. They spent nearly $60m and didn’t improve

When the new league year began there was optimism and excitement among Seahawks fans. For the first time in years they had cap space to spend and a bevvy of draft picks waiting to be used.

Instead they splurged nearly $60m and somehow barely improved their roster.

Their biggest outlay for 2020 was re-signing Jarran Reed — an understandable move. Bringing in Greg Olsen can also be justified, even if it came at a high price ($6.9m).

After that things got weird.

It was implausible to give Bruce Irvin a 32% pay rise from his salary in Carolina, especially given his age, desire to return to Seattle and seemingly lukewarm market. Equally, what did Cedric Ogbuehi show in his 155 total snaps for the Jaguars last season to warrant a pay increase from $895,000 to $2.237m?

Why did they pay Jacob Hollister $3.259m as a restricted free agent having already committed $6.9m to Olsen prior to drafting two tight ends?

Why did they identify B.J. Finney as a hot target to play center, only to witness a player who was a career backup in Pittsburgh settle into the exact same role in Seattle at a cost of $8m for two seasons?

Why did they invest $11.796m in David Moore, Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jacob Hollister while also turning their nose up at the D-line options available on the market? Then, having blown $4.2m on Jackson and Hunt during the significant portion of free agency, they cut both players much later in the year because they were ‘too expensive’.

Today they reworked David Moore’s contract to reduce his $2.1m cap hit. Again, would it have been the worst decision in the world to risk losing Moore by letting him test free agency with a view to getting him back at a cheaper price? Between Moore, Jackson and Hunt they used $6.3 in cap space in March — about as much as Dante Fowler and Robert Quinn’s 2020 cap hits.

Why is Jack Conklin’s reasonable cap hit of $8m in 2020 less attractive than using $7m on B.J. Finney and Brandon Shell? If you include Mike Iupati’s $2.5m and Chance Warmack’s $887,500 — can you honestly say the ‘depth’ of Finney, Shell, Iupati and Warmack was preferable than investing in a player who many consider to be a top right tackle?

After all the spending the only position that you could argue had seen a reasonable upgrade was tight end. Everywhere else — the team was either worse (swapping Clowney for Mayowa) or the status quo had remained.

Here are the stats from hell for Seattle’s defense in 2019:

— The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23)

— Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall

— The Seahawks produced a sack or quarterback hit on just 14.4% of opponents’ pass plays — worst in the NFL

— They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96)

— Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%)

— Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest

— They had 52 TFL’s — fourth fewest

— They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL

— Their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%)

— They gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall

— They had 131 missed tackles during the regular season — fourth most.

Yet after spending between $50-60m the only significant change to Seattle’s defense was the trade for Quinton Dunbar (and within weeks his future was going to be plunged into doubt).

Meanwhile the Ravens traded a fifth round pick for Calais Campbell — the player John Schneider and Pete Carroll have often referenced they’ve been searching for. The Falcons signed Dante Fowler for $6.6m this year, $19m next year and there’s an out after 2021. The Bears signed Robert Quinn for $6.1m this year, $14.7m next year and they have an out after 2021. Everson Griffen penned a $6m deal with the Cowboys recently and Yannick Ngakoue was willing to take a $5m pay cut to join Minnesota.

I’ve noted many times that I think Seattle’s entire off-season was adversely effected by Jadeveon Clowney’s impromptu hold-out. I explained why here. You could somewhat justify the above if there was a happy ending with Clowney. Now that it isn’t possible — their free agent spending looks even worse.

2. They’re getting minimal impact from their top-two picks

The Seahawks put themselves under pressure by failing to properly address the defense in free agency. The 2020 draft was rich in talent at receiver and the offensive line — yet Seattle instead were left to focus on different areas to fill needs.

Despite their less than secure long term future at offensive tackle and center and the clear need to keep adding weapons around their best player and quarterback, the Seahawks drafted a linebacker and a pass rusher with their top two picks.

The Jordyn Brooks addition was baffling from minute one. The Seahawks were already paying Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright around $25m to play in 2020. They were also a year removed from trading up in round three to select Cody Barton. With Wagner receiving a long, hefty contract extension — the only question mark was the long term replacement for Wright.

Was it really worth spending a first round pick on a WILL of the future though?

Brooks deserves time to show what he can do. If he’s capable of mimicking Wright’s storied career, it’ll be far from a wasted selection. He’s tough, physical and athletic.

It’s just really hard to justify a team with so many clear needs using a first round pick on a player they knew wouldn’t contribute much in year one, especially at a non-premium position.

I don’t like to play the ‘look what you could’ve won’ game in the draft. You can tie yourself in knots doing that. However, given they were willing to use a third round pick to trade up in round two, would the Seahawks have been better off moving up four spots in round one to secure Cesar Ruiz? Wouldn’t that have been a secure investment for the long term, preventing the current weird situation at center with Ethan Pocic the default starter until Justin Britt is healthy enough to return?

I’ve interviewed Ruiz. I’ve studied his tape in depth. He could’ve solidified the position for years to come and, in my opinion, potentially started as a rookie (which they’re clearly comfortable with given Damien Lewis is slated to start at right guard).

Instead they chose to add a WILL of the future and then trade up in round two for an edge rusher because they’d failed to address that position properly in free agency.

The only problem is, this was a terrible draft for speedy rushers. They latched onto Darrell Taylor because he’s their type of player. He’s an exciting, quick, balanced rusher with ideal size for the LEO. Yet he carried major injury red flags. It wasn’t a minor issue. It was a huge concern with him going into the draft.

The Seahawks traded a third round pick in order to move up and get him. Low and behold — the injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season and kept him out of the Senior Bowl and combine is still a problem.

Who knows when he’ll be available?

The end result is a team not getting any immediate impact from their top two picks. You might argue it’ll be difficult for any rookie to perform at a decent level given the way Coronavirus has impacted the league. It’s a fair point. Yet even without a global pandemic, the Seahawks would’ve been faced with the same situation. Taylor’s injury and Brooks’ backup status would’ve remained regardless.

It meant that after their spending splurge in free agency and their draft class — they’d still not made any significant improvements to the team aside from the tight end position.

3. They didn’t fix the pass rush

We all knew they had to do something. So did the Seahawks:

People have tried to talk themselves into what eventually unfolded. I refer back to cha’s brilliant post in the comments section summing up 12’s during the off-season:

Hawks Fans 5 Stages of Grief For the Pass Rush

DENIAL
“PC knows there won’t be a season in 2020 because of COVID.”
“PC and JS know what they’re doing. They’ve won a Super Bowl. Have YOU ever been a coach or GM?”
“Hawks are saving cap space because future years could be bad.”

ANGER
“Stop talking about the pass rush! That’s all you talk about!”

BARGAINING
“A better back 7 will improve the pass rush.”
“We got Jamal Adams and he’s a pass rusher.”
“Our reformed OL is a bigger problem.”
“Maybe Benson Mayowa can do a Chris Clemons.”

DEPRESSION
“What’s the point of playing the season? We know how it’s going to go – It’s going to be 9-7 or 10-6 and a milquetoast playoff loss.”

ACCEPTANCE
“Let’s enjoy RW while we can and marvel at special talents like DK Metcalf and Jamal Adams.”

Let’s just break down exactly what the Seahawks did to address their self-confessed #1 off-season priority:

— Lost Jadeveon Clowney, Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson

— Signed Benson Mayowa

— Drafted a player in round two (injured) and a player in round five

— Failed to make any serious additions at defensive tackle

— Added Bruce Irvin to play SAM linebacker and rush on passing downs

— Quickly rushed in Damontre Moore the week before the season starts

The top pass rushing defensive end on the team is Mayowa — a player who only had 302 snaps for Oakland last season and was gradually phased out of the defense. Despite having what some have called ‘his best season’ — he was practically surplus to requirements by the end of the year and the Raiders made no attempt to retain him. He has been a career backup and replacement level player throughout and had one sack in 2017 and four sacks in 2018.

If you’d said in February that he would be leading Seattle’s pass rush in 2020, nobody would’ve believed you.

He will be backed up by one of Alton Robinson — a fifth round rookie — or Damontre Moore, who was signed off his couch this week.

On the other side of the line will be perennial underachiever Rasheem Green. His four sack season in 2019 has taken on almost a mythical status because he accidentally led the Seahawks in sacks. The reality is he’s a player with all the physical tools and a distinct lack of fire and nouse. Now, he’s your starting five-technique.

Backing him up is L.J. Collier who deserves an opportunity to take a step forward in 2020 after a horrible rookie season that was impacted by an ankle injury. That said, he has everything to prove. He’s not only fighting to contribute more than one or two snaps a game this year — he needs to justify the fact the team used a first round pick on him a year ago.

Then we come onto defensive tackle where Jarran Reed and Poona Ford are the presumptive starters. Astonishingly, the only other DT on the roster is Bryan Mone. Demarcus Christmas, P.J. Johnson and undrafted rookie Cedrick Lattimore were all cut today. They will surely add another — but who? There’s hardly a long list of attractive options out there.

Rather than fix the pass rush, the Seahawks have cobbled together a unit that could be the worst positional group in the league.

You don’t need JJ Watt and Von Miller flanking Aaron Donald to play defense but you do need players who can consistently create pressure and impact quarterbacks. Forget sacks. If Mayowa plays 600-700 snaps in 2020 he will get some sacks purely through circumstance and opportunity. It’s no different than a bad striker in soccer playing 40 games and finishing with 7-8 goals.

The key is being able to consistently trouble the passer from the edge and the interior. The Seahawks didn’t have a great pass rush in 2018 but they got by thanks to the talent of Frank Clark because he was adept at winning 1v1 and combined elite explosive traits with supreme agility.

Seattle has none of that now. It’s no good being handled at the line for three quarters then picking up a coverage sack in garbage time with the game lost. By now nobody should need to be told about the impact of pressure on a QB. Just watch Russell Wilson against Arizona in week 16 last year.

When you can’t create pressure, even Matt Schaub is capable of passing for 460 yards — as he did against Seattle in 2019.

It’s not just the pass rush either. For some time now the Seahawks have done a terrible job handling the perimeter run game. They will hope the addition of Adams and Irvin plus the development of Marquise Blair will have a positive impact here. Yet you also need to be able to keep your second level defenders clean. If the D-line is being cut through with ease, they will simply end up being blocked out of plays and you’ll see the same kind of problems against misdirection, sweeps and stretch runs.

4. Desperation sets in

Jamal Adams is a fantastic player. One of the best in the NFL. I recall watching the Jets vs Giants game last year and being wowed by his constant impact.

Fans were desperate for something to get excited about and the Adams trade provided the shot in the arm they needed.

I also believe, firmly, that any analysis of the trade deserves proper scrutiny. However good Adams may be, serious questions need to be asked.

I propose the Seahawks were desperate. The only significant move they made to improve a struggling defense was to bring in Quinton Dunbar. At the time of the trade it was unclear whether he was facing a jail sentence for armed robbery. Now that he’s been cleared, there’s still no clarity on whether he faces a suspension.

Take away Dunbar and the 2020 defense was basically the same as a year ago minus Jadeveon Clowney.

Read that statement and acknowledge it. Because it’s a cast iron fact. You can’t seriously analyse this trade without acknowledging that one month before the season began, the only significant difference from 12 months ago was the removal of Clowney.

My hunch is the Seahawks knew they had to do something. Adams was available on the trade market and was a really good defensive player. They saw an opportunity.

Yet because they were desperate and because they had to do something — they were also shopping in a sellers market. This was their only shot to make a big splash. They couldn’t miss out because there were no alternatives other than possibly Yannick Ngakoue — and he would’ve cost $12m in cap space. It was practically Adams or else.

Thus, they ended up giving up a kings ransom to make sure this happened. They traded the Jets a bounty that nobody could predict. Two firsts, a third and a player for Adams and a fourth.

About a month before the trade was finalised, Tony Pauline reported that the Jets were interested in a player-for-player swap with the Cowboys that included La’el Collins. With Dallas losing pieces on their O-line recently, they were reluctant to make the deal.

Aside from that, several reports touted a first rounder and another pick. The Seahawks blew everyone else out of the water. That for me was a signal that they knew they had to get this. They couldn’t leave it to chance. They couldn’t be outbid.

Because they were desperate.

They’ve since claimed this was in the pipeline for weeks. Come on. If they wanted Jamal Adams badly and he was a priority off-season target, this deal would’ve been done in March. The Jets would’ve taken this trade any day, any time. The Seahawks only spent a second round pick on Marquise Blair a year ago.

For me, this wasn’t part of any vision. It was a reactionary move because they’d failed to do much of anything to improve the defense despite spending nearly $60m and a host of draft picks.

And look — that doesn’t mean it’s a bad trade. If Adams justifies the massive price tag, nobody will complain. Let’s be real though. They’ve mortgaged the future of the franchise on a safety to cover for a poor off-season — and they’re going to hope that the worst D-line in the league according to PFF isn’t going to expose the massive investment in not just Adams but also the linebacker position.

5. What now for Russell Wilson?

This has been a different off-season for Wilson. He’s been more outspoken for sure. He called on the team to sign superstars at the Pro-Bowl. He liked tweets about big name skill players in the draft. He had a very public workout with Antonio Brown.

People he’s very close with in the media have been very critical of the Seahawks. Colin Cowherd, a confidant of Wilson’s, casually compared his situation to Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs QB has the offense tailored to him, he has input in their draft picks and they’ve supported him with weapons galore, pass protection and a complementary defense.

Wilson wants to win so badly he named his newborn son after the word. Yet in the last five years the Seahawks have only won their division once. Forget Super Bowls. They can’t even win the NFC West.

He’s seen the ‘Let Russ Cook’ stuff because he’s a social media addict. He’ll know as well as anyone the strong and weak areas of the roster.

Would anyone blame him for feeling like he’s taken for granted? He doesn’t have Mahomes’ weapons, offensive freedom and too often he needs to drag the team back from a massive deficit because they’ve started slowly or they’re ill-equipped to deal with an opponent from the first whistle.

I’m not for a second implying that Wilson is on the brink of demanding a trade or doesn’t see his future in Seattle. I do think, however, that this time will come unless the Seahawks match the ambitions of their star player.

He’s a supremely driven and competitive individual. If he doesn’t think he can win multiple titles in Seattle, he’ll find a place where he can. It’s no different to Lebron James leaving Cleveland (twice). Lebron’s legacy as an all-time great is cemented because of his three titles. He’s in Los Angeles now to try and win more.

Wilson can’t expect to be considered one of the all-time greats with one Super Bowl ring — as many as Joe Flacco, Nick Foles and Trent Dilfer. As things stand, he’ll be remembered as much for that pass against New England as he will for anything else in his career.

At the moment the Seahawks are treading water. They’ve been in a reset for three years and without the hugely expensive Jamal Adams trade, wouldn’t have added any stars. They consistently finish second in the NFC West and make a hasty exit in the playoffs. And none of it’s because of the quarterback.

A lot of people aren’t going to enjoy reading these words and I’m already anticipating the backlash. However, I’m telling you, the Seahawks are facing a problem in the future if they cannot match the ambitions of their quarterback and provide him with an environment to achieve his career goals.

We’re already seeing this float into the media:

You don’t see the same things being said of other quarterbacks. Do you ever wonder why?

The Seahawks can’t afford another off-season like this one. The only problem is — they’ve plundered their resources in terms of draft picks until 2023 and the NFL economy is coming to terms with Covid-19.

Regulars to this blog will know I take no pleasure in writing any of this. Floating visitors will assume I’m being negative for the sake of it or attempting a hot take for ‘clicks’ (without realising I make no money from ad revenue).

I’m just being honest. I’d prefer to be proven wrong. I don’t think I am. This, for me, is simply the harsh reality of the poorest off-season in the Carroll era.

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New Orleans closes in on Jadeveon Clowney

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

According to Spotrac, the Saints have approximately $4m in available cap space. Yet reports are suggesting they’re making a huge push for Jadeveon Clowney.

What does this tell us? Firstly, you can make anything happen financially if you have the will to do it. Secondly, the Seahawks are facing a decisive 24 hours.

Based on the tweets above, they are ‘monitoring’ the situation. That has to turn into something more significant. Although apparently the price is still ‘too high’ for Seattle:

Only today Pete Carroll was referencing the need to try and get recently re-signed Damontre Moore up to speed so he can play in week one. This is a player who has featured in just 11 games in the last three seasons for three separate teams.

He’s barely been talked about in terms of returning to the NFL. Yet here is — being praised for his effort and seemingly being thrust into the spotlight as someone who will need to be relied on.

How has it come to this? How has fixing the pass rush as a priority turned into this?

You could argue they’ve been unfortunate. Darrell Taylor, who they drafted in round two, is still recovering from a injury he picked up last year. They were clearly hoping he could contribute as a rookie.

Yet everyone knew about his injury pre-draft. It was a well known red flag that every team was aware of. Hopefully he will make a full recovery in the future but in terms of 2020, the prospect of him contributing is bleak and there was always a chance of that happening. It shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Even then — relying on a rookie would’ve been a stretch.

So up steps Moore to join the rag-tag bunch of assembled parts.

Some Seahawks fans have tried to convince themselves that an improved secondary and a batch of contributors on the defensive line will be enough to deliver a contending Seahawks team. Let’s just get real. Allow reality to wash over you and consider the prospect of a defensive scheme that relies on rushing four being led by Rasheem Green and Benson Mayowa.

All the investment at linebacker and safety. The franchise quaterback. The hopes and dreams of a team in year three of a reset — trying to win a division they’ve only claimed once in the last five years.

It all rests on the ability of players like Green and Mayowa, supported by Moore, Alton Robinson and L.J. Collier, to not be a total and utter liability on the defensive line.

And that’s before we even get into the atrocious ‘depth’ at defensive tackle.

The Saints are moving in for the kill. They are trying to add an impact player who will certainly make their team better. They are a genuine contender already and this will only take them a step further.

If the Seahawks really are truly about competing and about reaching the status of a New Orleans or a San Francisco this year and being a serious contender and not a mere playoff number-maker-upper they have to go and get the player they called a top priority at the start of the off-season.

You can’t watch him join a NFC rival.

Especially after watching Calais Campbell, Robert Quinn, Dante Fowler, Yannick Nagkoue, Everson Griffen and others also move on to other teams.

Failure to act and what happens next will be frustratingly predictable. The Seahawks will win games because of their quarterback but they won’t reach their potential. The defensive line will hold them back. Whether that’s week one against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, a key NFC West game or a playoff season-ender.

It will cost them eventually.

So what’s the call?

Inaction and hope for the best? Or proving that this team is still serious about winning Championships?

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