Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

CFB week 5: D’Andre Walker is definitely legit

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

I’ve got Ole Miss vs LSU and Ohio State vs Penn State to watch over the next couple of days. I watched Tennessee vs Georgia live and wanted to write about one player who continues to stand out.

D’Andre Walker is terrific. And he seems like a great fit for the Seahawks and the way they play defense. He can attack the edge. He has the speed to run across the backside and tackle. He can play in space. He’s incredibly quick and sudden. He’s intense and plays with attitude. He’ll chase after the ball carrier.

Walker jumped a 33 inch vertical at the SPARQ tests in High School and his 4.16 short shuttle is in Leighton Vander Esch territory. You see that agility and explosion show up time and time again. Against Tennessee he stunted inside from the edge and got a big sack. It was such a fluid, sudden movement. Tennessee had no shot at picking it up. He chased, he harassed. On one play he drove the left tackle into the backfield with a bull rush.

He is the star in this Georgia front seven.

The only downside was a needless unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a shove after the whistle. It extended a drive that led to points. Kirby Smart took Walker out of the game for a while as a punishment. It all seemed a little over the top:

He came back into the game and with 3:24 to go — set the edge vs the run, released from his block, hit the RB and forced a fumble. Turnover.

Walker’s not getting much attention which is a surprise. Keep an eye on him though. Big talent, great athlete. One to watch.

Elsewhere…

— Despite his good reviews, I wasn’t blown away by Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery when he played Michigan. Yesterday, however, he collected four sacks against Stanford. That’s unusual for a DT. I’ll try to find the tape. Tillery also had two further QB hurries.

— Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen had a similar performance against South Carolina. He had three sacks, four TFL’s and a hurry. The first sack was on a backside pursuit (almost a safety in the end zone), the second he was unblocked stunting inside and the third he just flat out beat the left tackle for speed and bend leading to a sack/fumble. Allen had numerous other pressures too. He’s had a very productive start to the season and he’s making his case for round one. He’s not the only Kentucky player making a big impression. Running back Benny Snell Jr looks like he has a big future in the NFL too.

— Florida defensive end Jachai Polite has always been fun to watch but he’s had spells of inconsistency and injury. I caught a little bit of the Florida vs Mississippi State game yesterday and noticed his two sacks. He’s a little bit undersized (6-2, 260lbs) but he plays with a fantastic motor.

— Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones has snaps where he looks really quick and smooth. On one play against Penn State he used an effortless swim move to get into the backfield and force a big TFL. For his size he’s extremely nimble and light on his feet. I just wish he combined that with a little bit more power and explosion. At the next level he won’t always be able to rely on being quicker. There are times when he’s blocked too easily out of plays or moved at the LOS. His quickness is rare but in order to go very early in 2019 you’d like to see a little more power if he’s projecting as a defensive tackle.

— Auburn’s Derrick Brown isn’t a heralded player but he’s a fantastic defensive tackle with a big-time NFL future. He had a sack, two TFL’s and a hurry against Southern Miss. He’s a 6-5, 325lbs plug-in interior presence who can control the line, play with a nasty edge and provide enough pass-rush to make plays in the backfield.

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Colorado trio continue to impress

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

I’m all in on three Colorado prospects this year. Quarterback Steve Montez, linebacker Nate Landman and playmaker Laviska Shenault Jr. They put on another show against UCLA on Friday, taking the Buffs to 4-0 for the season.

Montez is legit. He’s 6-5 and 235lbs. I want to watch more of Justin Herbert at Oregon but I haven’t seen a more talented draft-eligible QB than Montez so far this year. His mobility, his size, his downfield accuracy and his playmaking quality are top level. He’s avoiding big mistakes, making sensational plays and elevating his team. And that’s a big thing to look for. Has a player put a team on the map? Have they taken a team into contention? Montez has done both.

Colorado are challengers in the PAC-12. We’ll learn a lot about them in the next few weeks. They host Arizona State then go to USC and Washington. It’ll be a great test for the Buffs as a team and Montez as a draft prospect. I think he looks like the real deal.

He’s no doubt helped by Shenault Jr who is just an incredible playmaker as a runner or receiver. Line him up anywhere. He’s a headache for defenses, a tremendous athlete and has a knack of making improbable catches. He himself looks like a first round talent. A quick reminder — he’s 6-2 and 220lbs and squats 475lbs. He’s extremely explosive. Alabama and LSU showed some interest in him as a recruit. It’ll be interesting to see if Montez opts not to declare this year to play one more season with Shenault Jr in 2019 before both turn pro. They’re a great double act and there isn’t a better quarterback-weapon combination in the conference.

Like Shenault Jr, Landman isn’t draft eligible this year. He led the team in tackles against UCLA and is a typically intense middle linebacker with great physical skills, quickness and ability to read/react. He had a 37-inch vertical in high school. Going into the UCLA game he had seven TFL’s — as many as Montez Sweat and 0.5 more than Clelin Ferrell. The TFL numbers haven’t been released yet for last nights game so he might be credited with more. He also has two interceptions. Great prospect.

This trio are making Colorado practically unmissable this season. The next three games will be fascinating. Don’t be surprised if they continue their great run and these three become very intriguing NFL prospects for the draft.

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Flowers & Kendricks show Carroll can still work his magic

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

For the first time this season, there was a vision for the long term. Suddenly, you could see players fitting into a newly competitive Seahawks team.

That Dallas win, coupled with flashes from the defense against Chicago, showed what was possible. Probably not in 2018 — but certainly in 2019 with another off-season.

For me two players stand out as possible additions to a new-look core that already includes stalwarts like Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Doug Baldwin and clearly now also includes Bradley McDougald, Shaquill Griffin, Jarran Reed and Frank Clark.

The rookie cornerback exceeding expectations

Tre Flowers will be tested in future games. The games against Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins won’t be the same as the contests against Case Keenum and Dak Prescott.

That said, it’s impossible not to be impressed with Flowers so far. He’s holding his own. He isn’t giving up big plays, he’s competing for the passes thrown his way, he hasn’t been exploited so far.

I can remember watching the combine live, seeing Flowers testing with the safeties and immediately thinking, ‘that’s a Seahawks corner’. His frame and length were so obviously ‘Seahawky’. It’s why we mocked him so often to Seattle. It was obvious. They were always going to recognise his potential and fit.

Flowers was a project though. A convert. Someone who needed time.

The fact he’s out there immediately and hasn’t been a liability is a credit to Flowers and the coaching chops of Pete Carroll. We discussed this after the Dallas game. Whatever you think about the offense, whatever you think about some of the bizarre things that have happened to this team over the last four years — don’t be quick to write-off Carroll. He is, once again, delivering a productive defense. Once again, he’s turning water into wine with a defensive back plucked from obscurity.

Furthermore, it was great to see Flowers being so chippy against Dallas. He was seen jawing and jostling a couple of times. Toughness, size and length. A ‘prototype’ for Carroll.

Flowers will have some rough moments no doubt. But the early signs are encouraging. Along with Shaquill Griffin, again the Seahawks have reloaded at corner. The scheme helps. We have to remember that. But it’s not a plug-in-and-play situation. These guys have quite a strict technique to learn. It’s not easy. Time and time again, Carroll delivers.

Griffin and Flowers could be the future — and they cost only a late third round pick and a fifth rounder.

Can they keep Mychal Kendricks?

Who knows what’s going to happen to Kendricks? He’s set to receive a suspension from the league it seems. Is he going to jail? Nothing is clear at the moment.

If he isn’t locked up and if his suspension is fairly minor, the Seahawks should work to keep Kendricks on this team.

It’s his 28th birthday on Friday. He’s entering the prime years of his career. He has looked fantastic against Chicago and Dallas — registering sacks, working well in coverage and the mistakes have been limited.

He looks the part. And the Seahawks have badly needed some depth at linebacker for years. Here’s a reminder of Pete Carroll’s words immediately after the 2016 season:

“We need some youth at the linebacker spot now. Bobby and K.J. played 1000’s of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful but we need to address that. We didn’t really get anybody that made a difference in the last couple of years that can really fight to take those guys job. Think if somebody could battle K.J. and Bobby for their starting jobs? That’s what we need to draft towards, so we’ll be looking there.”

Kendricks might not provide the youth in his late 20’s but he certainly provides proper competition and relief to Wagner and Wright. Imagine being able to play all three, or switch them around. Finally a legitimate solution to try and preserve the two star linebackers. And look at the difference between the Chicago game and all the other times Wagner and Wright were absent. Kendricks filled the void emphatically.

He’s the player they’ve needed since the end of that 2016 campaign. If Wright leaves in the off-season and doesn’t sign a new contract, Kendricks could also act as a replacement (although personally I’d like to see Wright return and this be a position of strength).

Again, much will depend on his availability. And admittedly that is a huge question mark. I hope for his sake a longer contract in Seattle is a possibility in the next six months.

With Flowers and Kendricks adding to the likes of McDougald, Clark, Wagner, Wright, Reed and others to emerge in the last year or so, there’s a clear path to the future emerging. And it’s time for Carroll to receive some praise. We’ve all been critical after a difficult start to the season. Yet look at the way McDougald in particular is playing, or the development of Griffin and Flowers. Positive signs are emerging. They need to keep the momentum going against Arizona.

The Seahawks might not be big contenders in 2018. They still, to me, look like a seven, eight or nine win team this year. But they could be an off-season away from being right back in the mix.

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New podcast: Cowboys win and a ‘heated’ debate

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Kenny and I did a podcast to reflect on the Dallas win and the direction of the team after three weeks. Then, we got into quite the heated debate about whether the Vikings are better than the Seahawks (I believe they clearly are, Kenny disagreed, chaos ensued). Check out the piece below…

Instant reaction: Seahawks run to win

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

There are two key takeaways from this game:

1. Running the ball still matters

A lot of people want to tell you otherwise. They’re wrong. There isn’t a statistic you can slap an acronym on to portray what the Seahawks did today. They controlled the game and physically wore down the Dallas defense. Committing to the run is a viable way to structure your offense. Sometimes it won’t work. When it doesn’t, those committed to trying to argue ad nauseam that it isn’t important any more will rush to their twitter accounts. But this is all that matters — there are multiple ways to win, multiple ways to lose and execution and talent are the deciding factors. Not ‘ideology’.

2. It’s far too early to write off Pete Carroll

After an 0-2 start and some bizarre moments (Earl Thomas, Chris Carson being ‘gassed) — it’s understandable why some people were wondering if the end of an era was forthcoming. Not so fast. Carroll has had to patch together a new defense. Look at the results. They’re playing their arses off. They’re turning the ball over. Bradley McDougald looks like a star. The unheralded D-line is making plays. They’re getting performances out of rookie Tre Flowers and linebackers brought in off the street. It’s not the LOB. It’s a Pete Carroll defense. And that’s worth hanging on to.

It’s only one win and there’s still a lot of work to do. Russell Wilson was much improved but still seems somewhat restricted at times. Is this deliberate? Can they be even better by loosening the strings? They also miss Doug Baldwin and other teams won’t be as generous as this average Dallas group.

This was still a crucial victory rich in positives. The energy was back. Frank Clark looks thoroughly deserving of a second contract. Mychal Kendricks needs to stay in Seattle as long as possible. McDougald as noted looks fantastic. Jarran Reed had two sacks. The offensive line is playing very well. Chris Carson had Seattle’s first 100 yard rushing game for 23 games. They were better on third downs. Earl Thomas, for all the drama, made two tricky interceptions. Tyler Lockett is scoring a touchdown per game at the moment. It took three weeks but they finally stayed true to their chosen identity on offense.

This was a big one. Fall to 0-3 and the knives were going to be sharpened. Big questions would be asked. It’s funny how one game can change the mood. For the first time this year, this looked like a group with some potential.

Now the Seahawks can legitimately target a 2-2 start at Arizona next week. They could be facing Josh Rosen too — he came in for Sam Bradford in a desperation act to avoid 0-3. It didn’t work.

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Seahawks set to fine Earl Thomas

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

So there we have it. It appears, after all, Earl Thomas pulled himself out of practise twice this week. No ‘veteran rest days’. And no suggestion in this report of a personal issue he was dealing with (unless you count his wallet being insufficiently stuffed).

It seems it was a powerplay all along.

The saga painfully continues.

Here’s the issue. If the Seahawks trade Thomas after stunts like this, it opens the door for others to do the same. After all, it would’ve worked for Thomas. He got what he wanted. Yet what is the alternative? Deal with an ongoing distraction and get nothing for Thomas in the off-season? Put pride and making a point ahead of vital draft stock?

They have no easy win here. Unless someone comes up with a fantastic trade offer — which seems unlikely given teams will be fully aware of the difficult situation facing Seattle.

The link to the Chiefs feels like a plant. It reads like the Seahawks trying to create a market that has seemingly only ever involved one team — Dallas.

One can only hope Seattle’s defiant or stubborn approach (pick which one you prefer) pays off. If they really did turn down a second round pick from the Cowboys, you wonder if they’ll regret that in the future.

The holdout was one thing. Pulling yourself out of practise and creating a distraction days before a vital game against Dallas is a totally different thing altogether. It’s not a good look. At all.

Nobody has stepped up to trade for Thomas and pay him. So he has to play the cards he’s been dealt. One more year in Seattle on a decent not exceptional contract.

He can do what he wants in that time. Hold out again. Not practise. Whatever. It won’t change anything. Not this late in the day. I suspect few will remain sympathetic to his cause after this latest move, however. And why should they?

This isn’t about supporting ‘the man’ against Earl Thomas. We all respect Thomas’ desire to get a long term contract. It’s understandable. But sometimes in life you don’t get what you want. And most people can’t fall back on their millions and the security of more millions to come when they’re unhappy at work.

***Update***

CFB week 4: Did we mention this is a good D-line class?

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Another week, another really productive weekend for the top defensive line prospects. With Ohio State’s Nick Bosa out with an abdominal injury, the rest of a loaded class continue to shine.

Brian Burns is the legit
Nobody has done more to improve their stock this season than Burns. Playing on a rank bad Florida State team, he shines every week with a combination of quickness and length. Look at the interception he made today:

That’s incredible. He also had a sack in a victory against Northern Illinois. Burns continues to make plays every week. If he tests well, and there’s no reason why he won’t, watch out.

D’Andre Walker is a beast
Listed in our early watch-list this summer, Georgia’s Walker continues to shine. He had two more sacks today against Missouri and plays with an intensity, athleticism and physicality that deserves early round consideration. It’s a major surprise that he still isn’t getting any major attention on the draft circuit. Walker is legit. He can be a linebacker or rusher and helps set the tone for Georgia.

Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell continue to make plays
It’s difficult to judge a D-line against the triple-option. The style just doesn’t translate. And when you come up against an elite defense, the mistakes start to happen. Georgia Tech fumbled their way through the game. Paul Johnson’s offense can be difficult to watch when it isn’t rocking. Still, Christian Wilkins managed to put on a show. He was running across the line, dodging blocks with great balance and athleticism and he landed a couple of sacks. Wilkins is really good — his quickness, frame and ability to win in multiple ways should land him a spot in round one. The rest of the ‘big four’ had a quieter day — but Ferrell still managed a touchdown on a fumble recovery (two other players, including Wilkins, could’ve scored before Ferrell finally fell on the ball).

Rashan Gary is building momentum
He needed to start making plays, even when facing difficult double-teams. He’s a freaky athlete and you want to see it flash. Today he helped Michigan defeat Nebraska by collecting another sack and reports suggest he put on a second consecutive strong performance. If he can finish the season with some consistency he can still be a high first round pick.

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Is Earl Thomas holding out of the Dallas game?

Friday, September 21st, 2018

The Earl Thomas saga takes another twist. Oh joy.

So what’s going on? I can think of three possibilities:

1. Thomas is going to the Cowboys. Neither team will want to face him on Sunday. So the deal gets done (officially) early next week.

2. Dallas stepped up to the plate (finally) and made a handsome offer. Now the contract talks begin.

3. Thomas is still angry with the team and is making a play to change a situation he’s clearly unhappy with.

Steve Wyche at NFL.com reports, “A team official said that Thomas had not been traded and reiterated Carroll’s statement that Thomas was dealing with a personal issue.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean a trade won’t happen in the very near future. If Thomas is simply making a play to the team — what’s next? Nothing is going right.

One way or another it’s time for this saga to end.

The Seahawks are 0-2 and don’t look like a contender at all. Losing Earl Thomas for nothing in the off-season makes no sense. Extending him or trading him are the only real solutions. They’ve made it clear he isn’t going to get a new contract in Seattle.

If the Cowboys really are offering a second rounder — it’s time to do a deal.

The Seahawks currently only own picks in rounds 1,3,4 and 5 in 2019. They clearly need more to rebuild parts of this roster. It’s hardly a treasure trove of picks even if they deal Thomas for a second rounder plus change. They have needs at key positions and don’t have competitive depth. They have money to spend in free agency — but have to hope some of the better players reach the open market.

Even then, it won’t matter what they do if they don’t address a bizarre start to the 2018 season. A clunking offense, confusing mixed messages about Chris Carson’s workload and a Head Coach interfering with the offensive play calls have added to a disappointing 0-2 start.

Whatever happens with Thomas, these things need to be sorted out on Sunday.

Kudos to the guy who wrote this tweet, by the way:

What’s next?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

It’s already here. The talk of big change in the off-season.

The 0-2 start and the manner of the two losses made it inevitable.

Many people appreciate it’s a transition year. They just want to see reasons to be optimistic. I suspect a lot of fans are resigned to 6-10 or 7-9. Or worse. They simply want to go into the off-season believing the good times will be back soon.

Little about this start will evoke any optimism.

It’s not totally negative. The performance of the defense in Chicago, minus several stars, was encouraging. It highlighted Pete Carroll can still coach up a defense. Considering the lack of X-factor talent on the defensive line and the game of musical chairs across from Shaquill Griffin, last night has to be considered a job well done.

But then there’s the offense. And that’s the reason people are losing faith quickly.

Carroll’s interview after the game was bizarre.

Firstly, he revealed he told Brian Schottenheimer to take deep shots at the start of the second half. I get it. They had some momentum before half time and had an opportunity to snatch even more with a big play. Yet they had a spell where they didn’t run the ball for 14 consecutive snaps.

8:11 left in the second quarter until 14:15 left in the game. No runs.

Seattle spent an off-season saying they were going to fix and feature the run. This year they have 64 and 74 rushing yards in their two games. They have zero rushing touchdowns. They appear willing to abandon it in a flash.

Nobody wants them to run for the sake of it but this just seems so contradictory.

Secondly, the Chris Carson mystery (which is staggering and weird). He didn’t run the ball once in the second half. Not a single tote. Carroll said after the game he was tired due to a special teams commitment. Then it was revealed he had only two snaps on special teams. Today Carroll backtracked on 710 ESPN, suggesting he was mistaken. Carson was just tired and he made an assumption.

What’s going on?

Why is Carson tired, if indeed he truly was? Why is Carroll’s message — usually so on-point — now strikingly inconsistent?

People have started to assume, not unfairly, it’s merely an attempt to feature Rashaad Penny. The first round pick. Perhaps that’s true? But it doesn’t answer why Mike Davis got on the field before Carson to spell Penny.

Weren’t Carson & Penny supposed to be a two-headed monster?

What’s going on?

Then there’s the scheme and play-calling. Russell Wilson has never looked so unsure, so jittery, so compressed. He looks uncomfortable.

And even more concerning is their apparent inability to dictate to the defense in any way. They want to run the ball but either can’t or won’t. They see a seven-man blitz from Chicago and don’t have the answers to beat it.

This tweet from Brock Huard sums it up:

The offense was supposed to be the unit they could hang their hat on. This was supposed to be the year they got back to classic Carroll football. Instead, the opposite is happening. The offense hasn’t looked this stagnant in the Wilson era.

Things can change quickly in football. With two home games up next against inconsistent Dallas and Arizona (who look even worse than Seattle), they could easily be 2-2 in a fortnight. It might simply paper over the cracks but some of the doom and gloom would be lifted. Even if it’s just temporary.

They should beat Arizona. Should being the key word. But Dallas? If they lose next week the noise will grow. With a game against the Rams forthcoming, the reality is a 1-4 start heading to London.

That’s not unrealistic. And it’s why this Dallas game is undoubtedly the most important since Seattle was beaten in the playoffs by Atlanta in 2016. The fans need something to show this isn’t the ‘titanic’ after all. They need a reason to believe this team is a good off-season away from being ‘back’.

They’ve had two losses. They need some wins.

The offense has to be better. Carroll and Schottenheimer have to be better. So does Wilson — but he needs help. It has to start now.

Stand-out draft prospects so far

Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Brian Burns (DE, Florida State)
Devin White (LB, LSU)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Austin Bryant (DE, Clemson)
D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)

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Instant reaction: Ugly Seahawks fall to 0-2

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Last weeks reaction post started with the words: ‘this could be a long season‘.

It is going to be a long season. Unfortunately.

This was supposed to be a year where the offense stepped up to the plate. They were going to carry the team with a younger defense in transition.

The O-line was supposed to be better. Russell Wilson was going to prove his quality once and for all. They were going to get back to running the ball.

In reality, the offense looks pitiful.

Where do you start?

The Bears showed zero respect to Wilson and the passing game. They regularly attacked with seven, swarming an overmatched offensive line. In that situation Wilson needed to get the ball out quickly. If anything it was an opportunity for the quarterback to attack. Exploit Chicago’s aggressive nature.

He couldn’t do it. Or he can’t. Time and time again he dwelled in the pocket, took a sack, tried to create. No dice. Drive after drive stalled. They had no answer. No solution.

Wilson has struggled badly in the first two weeks. He was jittery again, indecisive. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers. Keep rushing seven against those guys and they’ll exploit it. Wilson, so far, is failing to show he can operate conventionally with the mass responsibility now on his shoulders.

A week after failing to establish the run, they decided to be more pro-active this week in that regard. The first drive was loaded with runs. But the incompetence of the passing game essentially ended any opportunity to stick with it. Every time they tried to mix in a pass, disaster struck.

Last week they had 64 rushing yards. This week they had 74 rushing yards.

Fix the run? This isn’t it.

Even so, the running game itself seems muddled. The committee approach currently is uninspiring. And this quote from Pete Carroll after the game was baffling:

Carson didn’t have a carry in the second half.

(EDIT — It’s since emerged Carson played two snaps on special teams. Why did Pete Carroll lie about that?)

The offense is a mess. It’s hard to imagine how they’re going to get out of this rut. The hope has to be that it’s just growing pains. This is a new staff, a tweaked unit with a lot of new personnel.

But this is where they’ve invested and placed their faith. Trading for Duane Brown and paying him, a first round pick on a running back, changing the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

Rather than get better, in many ways things are worse. There’s very little cause for optimism.

It’s strange. Seahawks fans have enjoyed a terrific run in the Carroll era. It’s weird to see such a poor product now. So often in this league you don’t see the cliff-face coming. It looks like it might’ve arrived for Carroll’s team.

The Seahawks deserve to be 0-2. This isn’t 2015 where you felt they had the talent to come back. Already, the key to the season appears to be finding some pieces you can roll with beyond 2018. The performance of the defense — punching above its weight — might offer some hope there. Minus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, the unit did its best against the Bears. The 24-17 scoreline flattered Seattle.

Yet there still isn’t that core group emerging like we saw in 2011. Carroll surely is hoping that season will be emulated. Rough start, finding their groove later on. Taking momentum forward.

This feels different. There’s no blossoming LOB or Marshawn Lynch. The players on offense they should be relying on are playing poorly.

It’s not good. And neither are the Seahawks.

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