Monday notes: difficult topics after Seattle’s Buffalo beat-down

November 9th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Does Jamal Adams fit in Seattle’s defense?

The Jamal Adams trade is already concerning

The Seahawks are basically using him as a pass rushing linebacker, blitzing to try and manufacture pressure they otherwise can’t create.

He’s never been a particularly good zone coverage defender. He’s always been better playing downhill and aggressive.

We’re seeing when he does sit in zone, there are issues. When he blitzes they’re often leaving Quandre Diggs isolated (and we can all see the results) or they’re forcing themselves to play nickel with a ‘designated rusher’ rather than an extra coverage man.

The Seahawks scheme has always worked best when they can rush with four and let everyone in the second level do their jobs.

Kam Chancellor had only two career sacks. He rarely blitzed.

Suddenly, in part because they did a bad job addressing the pass rush this year and in part because of who Adams is, they’re having to switch everything up to facilitate him and prop up the D-line.

When he played in a 3-4 in New York it worked a treat. You have four linebackers on the field in base to cover the second level and you just have more flexibility if you want to rush an aggressive safety. The Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams schemes are designed to take risks, to blitz creatively and bring a lot of pressure. It wasn’t just Adams — it was exactly the same with Deone Buchanan in Arizona.

Seattle’s defense simply isn’t built that way.

When you trade two first round picks, a third and a good veteran for a player — you expect clarity on role, you expect a good fit and you expect a high level of performance immediately.

It’s difficult to watch the way Minkah Fitzpatrick is playing in Pittsburgh. He’s acting as their eraser. He has six interceptions in just over a season with the Steelers and two defensive touchdowns.

The Seahawks couldn’t compete with Pittsburgh in trade talks. The Steelers, at the time, were dangling what looked like a top-10 pick a year ago. Yet the cost was cheaper and the results far better.

With the price tag Seattle paid for Adams, expectations are very high. I’m not convinced he suits their scheme and I’m not sure they know how to best use him. I’m struggling to see how the Seahawks are noticeably better with him in the lineup versus Bradley McDougald. It’s starting to feel a bit like Percy Harvin all over again. They acquire a player who is clearly very talented but doesn’t necessarily fit and they can’t work out the best way to utilize him.

I can’t be the only person wondering if the Seahawks can justify paying him a massive contract in the off-season. As we saw with Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey — when you trade the house for players without an oven-ready contract extension ready to go, you end up getting fleeced. Tunsil and Ramsey smashed records for annual salary and guarantees at their respective positions. They were given a blank cheque the moment the trades were ratified.

Adams is in the exact same boat. Budda Baker is the highest paid safety on $15m a year. It’s not unrealistic that the Seahawks are facing a $17-18m commitment per year — on top of the same amount they’re already paying Bobby Wagner.

I don’t think you can justify that.

The next eight games are huge for both the Seahawks and Adams. They need to determine whether this is a long term arrangement or not. Either that or Carroll needs to cede control of the defense in the off-season and turn things over to an experienced schemer who can build the unit around Adams.

New coaches are needed from the outside

Seattle’s defense is getting worse year after year.

It’s always been a unit that relies on talent. Nobody could look at their scheme even in the LOB days and admire its complexity or the way it challenges opponents. It’s always been fairly straight forward. In the 2011-2014 period, Seattle had an obscene number of world class players with BAMF attitudes to make it virtually unstoppable.

Now there isn’t a cornerback on the roster you can hang your hat on (including Shaquill Griffin). The safeties are not living up to expectations. The D-line can’t generate pressure with four and Bobby Wagner has turned into a shadow of his former self.

At a time like this — when your backs are against the wall and you’re getting hammered by opponents and critics alike — you need your coaches to step forward. They need to come up with solutions.

We’re eight weeks into the season now and all Pete Carroll keeps saying is he believes things will get better. These are just shallow, meaningless words at this stage.

It seems clearer by the week the Seahawks aren’t capable of turning a historically bad unit into something passable.

Yet as flawed as the defensive roster is — this is still a team with some big name, expensive players. To not come up with any solutions half way through a season isn’t acceptable.

The Bills giving up on the running game should be the final straw. Have you ever witnessed a team so blatantly jab a finger at a defensive weakness like that?

It had to be humiliating for Carroll. One of his big mantras is that first and foremost you have to stop the run. Now opponents aren’t even bothering running. He’s helped create a defense that takes away the running game for all the wrong reasons.

This will be a very painful experience for Seattle’s Head Coach. Fresh off the news that he’s been given a contract extension until 2025, he also needs to be honest about this situation.

The Seahawks coaching staff is littered with old friends from USC and family members and it’s not working for the defense.

Carroll needs to bite the bullet. He is a fine Head Coach with a superb track record. He needs to become the figurehead, the leader, the culture setter. And he needs to employ someone with experience to run the defense.

That doesn’t mean going back to Dan Quinn or Gus Bradley. The defenses in Atlanta and Los Angeles are also terrible. It means employing an outsider to come in and sort things out.

It needs to be someone with ambitions of being a Head Coach in the future. Someone who can come in, rescue Seattle’s defense and deliver a fresh vision and new ideas.

It needs to be someone who can test opponents with clever scheming, week-to-week game-planning and can get the best out of Seattle’s supposed stars.

The Seahawks have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and it’s going to squander the best years of Russell Wilson without making some difficult decisions.

Plenty of coaches lead from the top and employ specialist coordinators to run the offense, defense and special teams. John Harbaugh is a good example. That has to be a path Carroll considers in the off-season.

Ken Norton Jr still needs to go, this week (but he won’t)

I think Carroll has too much respect for the man. Clearly the players think the world of him.

It’s just not working though.

A change is required to shake things up. They need someone with a fresh perspective making the calls and being the key decision maker in the meeting room.

Carroll is protecting Norton and taking a portion of the blame — and rightly so. It’s his defense too. Yet he’s not going anywhere and things simply aren’t improving.

Forget Dan Quinn. He needs to repair his reputation and coming to Seattle to try and fix this mess in-season isn’t the way to do it.

It’ll probably need to be someone from within the staff already — but really, what have you got to lose?

Somebody needs to be held to account for this defensive shambles. Ownership clearly isn’t going to do it. The media aren’t going to do it. Therefore Carroll has to.

The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in 2010. They were 9-4 but the offense was struggling. Baltimore won the Super Bowl that year.

Sometimes change is just necessary.

A record-setting example

The Seahawks’ defense is set to smash the record for passing yards conceded per game:

2020 Seahawks 362.1
2020 Falcons 310.3
2011 Packers 299.8
2015 Giants 298.9
2012 Buccaneers 297.4

Look at the difference between Seattle this year and the rest — then note who’s second (for the Dan Quinn truthers).

They’re also going to shatter the record for the all-time worst passing defense in terms of yards conceded — by a thousand yards. The record is 4796 and the Seahawks are on a pace for 5794.

The Seahawks wasted money on tight ends

Greg Olsen is earning $7m this season. He currently has 171 yards and one touchdown. He’s on pace for 342 yards and a couple of scores. Meanwhile Jacob Hollister, on a $3.2m second round tender contract, has 11 catches for 98 yards and one touchdown.

Given the flaws elsewhere on the roster, the use of over $10m on these two players warrants a serious challenge.

It’s time to get real

Let’s have a close look at the reality of Seattle’s 6-2 record.

Only one of those victories — against Miami — was against a reasonable opponent. The other wins were against Atlanta, New England, Dallas, Minnesota and a banged up 49ers outfit.

The New England, Dallas and Minnesota games could’ve easily be losses.

In the toughest stretch of the season, they’re currently 1-2. Next up are the Rams, who the Seahawks are 1-4 against in the last five outings.

They’ve failed to get any angle on the Sean McVay offense. In the last five games between the teams, LA has scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points.

Here’s the total offensive yardage conceded in each game:

2017 (H) — 352
2018 (A) — 468
2018 (H) — 456
2019 (H) — 477
2019 (A) — 455

Falling to 6-3 overall and 1-3 in this grown-up portion of the schedule is a very real threat.

This feels like a make or break game next weekend. The Seahawks need to prove they aren’t pretenders.

If you missed our ‘pulling no punches’ instant reaction podcast discussing the Buffalo game, check it out here:

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Instant reaction: Seahawks embarrassed in Buffalo

November 8th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks were completely out-thought, out-classed and out-coached on a concerning afternoon in Buffalo.

I said in the week that Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would win a game like this. The Seahawks had an opportunity to show they belonged in that tier.

Instead they were hammered in one of the worst games of the Pete Carroll era.

And Carroll in particular should be embarrassed.

They came out flat with no energy and a game plan that was totally unfit for purpose. They gave up 174 yards in the first quarter alone (154 passing). They ended the half with 292 yards (272 passing).

Buffalo were aggressive and took the game to the Seahawks. They exploited Seattle’s massive, glaring weaknesses in pass defense.

The run/pass ratio after their first drive in the second half was 4/31. The Bills mocked Seattle with their play calling — and there was nothing they could do about it.

The Seahawks were passive, low-energy and looked like a team that had absolutely no idea what to do in the face of an onslaught.

No doubt the message after this will be to draw a line under it, move on and not linger on a horrible day.

We don’t have to do that as mere observers though. There was so much wrong about this performance and some serious questions, for once, need to be asked.

All of the off-season fears with the Seahawks were exposed.

The defense is a shambles and it’s clear returning players and band-aids are not going to cure any ills.

Key players are simply not delivering. Bobby Wagner can’t play well once every few weeks to justify an $18m salary. Jamal Adams might only just be returning from injury but can we say with any confidence he justifies the kind of trade outlay usually reserved for a quarterback?

So much was expected of players like Quandre Diggs and Quinton Dunbar. They aren’t delivering.

They spent over $50m in free agency and used three first round picks, a second and a third round pick on this unit during the off-season. How the heck is it as bad as this?

There seems to be two utterly basic plans on defense. All-out blitz or sit back and play zone coverage. It’s not confusing anyone. It’s not challenging anyone. Teams don’t respect Seattle’s defense.

Whatever they do the results always end up being the same — massive yardage conceded and a total reliance on turnovers for stops.

Even when they got into good positions, such as 2nd and 27 early in the second half, they gave up an easy completion to a wide open receiver.

People will point to the seven sacks. Was it a positive? Sure. But the Seahawks were giving up way too many easy passes. A 1st, 2nd or 3rd and long situation wasn’t an issue for Buffalo. Seattle was giving up nine yards per play right until the very end of the game. Forcing a five yard loss only to give up 20 on the next play isn’t going to cut it.

Look at the last quarter. The Seahawks were blitzing constantly. The Bills call a couple of screens and it’s job done.

Out-coached on the key downs.

The stats at the end, as they’ve been all season, are a horror show.

415 passing yards for Josh Allen, nearly 50% third down conversion, 44 points conceded.

There’s a complete reliance on Russell Wilson. Their inability to play anything like complementary defense means he has to force things — like on 4th and 1 when facing a 14-0 hole minutes into the game and he throws a lousy interception (his seventh of the season already). Such as the start of the second half when, under the weight of expectation, he misfires on two throws then coughs up a fumble.

All of his turnovers this year have been astonishingly reckless. That’s not suddenly started happening for no reason.

And look at the ways teams are starting to attack him. You can afford to take risks when on the other side of the ball, you know you’re getting to get your yards and your points. Buffalo knocked Wilson down 16 times today — the highest total in any game this season. That’s not on the O-line. That’s on teams feeling they can be aggressive — usually because the points and yards are flowing.

Seattle has a MVP candidate at quarterback. Yet the defense is so bad, every week they make the opponent’s quarterback look like a MVP candidate too.

The pressure is constantly on Wilson’s shoulders. Not just from an opposition pass rush but by his own team — constricting him, demanding so much from him.

This game is exactly why some of us voiced concerns during the off-season. Nobody thought the Seahawks would be a bad team this year. Not with Wilson at quarterback. Yet there was a very real threat that he could end up propping them up. A very real threat that when they get to the playoffs and play the proper teams — or when they face the likes of the Rams next week or the Cardinals again shortly after — they might lose games because the defense is this inept. This poorly constructed.

With Wilson enjoying the peak years of his career, it’s Seattle’s responsibility to build a team around him to succeed. They don’t need the LOB era defense and Marshawn Lynch. They just need to avoid being terrible in key areas. They’ve created a terrible defense — one that is even worse than last year, despite all the talk of off-season priorities and all of the massive resource used on the unit.

They’ve created a historically bad group. It is going to set records for ineptitude.

It’s not just on the defense though. The Seahawks simply didn’t look ready to play today. From the opening kickoff onwards — they were sloppy, sluggish, slow and unprepared.

Wilson’s off-days seem to be particularly panicky. He has a tendency to get spooked and it happened today. The Seahawks needed a cool head to throw counter punch after counter punch. In Seattle’s two losses he’s turned the ball over seven times. Seven times.

He’s never turned the ball over at this rate. It is not a coincidence. Of course he needs to take the blame for the turnovers. Yet this team is putting an insane amount of pressure on Wilson to cover up so many warts. The offense scored 34 points today. That should be enough to win, even with a couple of mistakes.

I’m not sure simply ‘moving on’ from this is enough. Things aren’t getting better on defense, despite Carroll’s claims that it would happen.

Perhaps a wake up call is required? Maybe they do need to fire Ken Norton Junior? Maybe it’s the kick up the arse the defense needs? Bobby Wagner is hardly playing like he wants to save the man he respects so much.

If nothing else they just need more ideas. They need to ask questions. Being aggressive can’t just mean blitzing like crazy. There simply isn’t any progress.

How can Carroll present this defensive product to the fans, to Wilson, to ownership and say this is what will lead the team to glory?

The Seahawks went into the bye week knowing they were facing the toughest stretch of their season.

They’ve played three games since and they’re 1-2. The win was against a 49ers team we can now clearly see were absolutely hammered by injuries.

With the Rams next, given their recent record against Seattle, that could easily stretch to 1-3.

Reality bites sometimes, I’m afraid.

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Breaking: Pete Carroll signs contract extension in Seattle

November 8th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Pete Carroll has signed a deal to stay in Seattle until 2025

According to Adam Schefter, Pete Carroll has agreed a multiyear contract extension with the Seahawks.

Jason La Canfora originally reported earlier in the season that this was likely. Now, it appears the deal was struck a while ago and simply hasn’t become public knowledge until today.

Schefter says the deal keeps Carroll in Seattle until 2025 when he will turn 74.

It will coincide with the peak years of Russell Wilson’s career and would make the Carroll era a 15-year tenure.

This is good news for the Seahawks franchise. The club is currently in a holding period with ownership. A new buyer will be expected in the coming years. Until then, there’s a serious need for continuity and expertise within the football operations.

This will see the team through a somewhat challenging period with so much uncertainty due to Coronavirus. By the time the Carroll era is concluding, there’s a reasonable chance this will coincide with new ownership who will be able to plot the future path.

Carroll remains a figurehead for the city and very much the face and personality of the franchise along with Wilson. The culture he has created in Seattle is second to none. That’s not to say things have gone perfectly over the last few years. Winning the NFC West only once in the last five seasons is arguably a poor return given the quality of the quarterback. The team also has a questionable record in terms of personnel decisions since opting to reset in 2018.

Nevertheless, it’s very easy to assume things will be better with someone else in charge. Carroll has embraced the need to rally behind the quarterback due to a suspect defense this year and the Seahawks have started 6-1 this season as a consequence.

There will be big decisions to be made in the future. Coaching changes, particularly on defense, seem unavoidable in the off-season. As noted in an article a few weeks ago — I’d like to see Carroll cede some control on defense and appoint an experienced, established coordinator who can elevate the unit after several years of struggle. Ideally that would also be someone from outside of the Carroll coaching tree to provide a new, fresh perspective.

There are also key personnel decisions to make in the future with the cap situation likely to impact all teams and the Seahawks facing a sustained period with limited draft stock.

These are challenges that Carroll will no doubt embrace with his well-established vigour. And while he will always be known as the man who delivered the first Super Bowl victory to Seattle — he will equally be judged on whether he was able to deliver another between now and 2025.

The best way to celebrate this news would be with a win against Buffalo. It feels like the type of game Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would win. If the Seahawks want to be considered in the same tier, they need to go and prove it today.

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CFB Saturday notes: QB’s continue to impress

November 7th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

— There are so many bad quarterbacks in college football at the moment it’s hard to work out how Maryland managed to land Tua Tagovailoa’s brother via transfer. Taulia has been absolutely superb the last two weeks and looks the part of a pro prospect for the future. He’s mobile, accurate, throws well on the run, doesn’t take unnecessary chances and can make plays at every level. He’s also elevating Maryland way beyond expectations. In a 35-19 win against Penn State he threw three touchdowns and 282 yards was on point.

— No quarterback has elevated his stock more than BYU’s Zach Wilson so far, however. Some players just have a X-factor. They look in control, skilful, the clear best player on the field. That’s Wilson week after week this season. The 51-17 win against Boise State was another masterclass. He has a lot of what teams look for — creativity and improv skills, the ability to throw from difficult angles on the run, enough speed to make gains on the ground and he’s highly accurate. He’s not a big, physical player and that gives some pause. He might have a lot of similar traits to Justin Herbert but he doesn’t have the arm or the size. That does matter and he’ll need to get stronger. He doesn’t have that ‘flick of the wrist’ fastball that Kyler Murray had on a more diminutive frame. Even so, he has looked fantastic this year.

— Sometimes you can boost your stock when you have to leave a game through injury. Kyle Pitts was hammered on an illegal hit that led to concussion symptoms against Georgia. Without him, the Florida offense just didn’t look the same (even though they won comfortably). He had two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown but you have to know where he is at all times. He’s not going to come into the NFL and be a George Kittle style complete tight end. He’s more of a moveable chess piece. Yet a team with a young quarterback who needs an ideal #2 to pair with a dynamic outside receiver should target Pitts early in the first round.

— Going back to Penn State, one of the biggest disappointments so far is not being able to see running back Journey Brown. The team released a statement saying he’s out with an undisclosed illness. He posted a video suggesting he might be back at some point this season but it’s unclear. Based on his 2019 film he was a player I was desperate to see more of. He’s reportedly up to 216lbs which is in Seattle’s range. He jumped a 40-inch vertical at SPARQ so he’s incredibly explosive. He’s been timed at a 4.29 in the forty and you do see that speed on the field. He is lightning fast and his acceleration is incredible. He has superb change of direction skills and delivers sudden, ankle-breaking cuts to avoid tacklers. He also fights through contact and is a surprisingly good goal-line runner. He looked like a potential second round pick based on what he showed last year. Look out for updates on his status moving forward. Penn State badly miss him and others (Micah Parsons etc).

— Pittsburgh pass rusher Patrick Jones is a leader, he’s incredibly quick off the edge, he has versatility and range, he has a repertoire and it’s hard to take any mock draft seriously that doesn’t have him listed as a high pick. He was superb again in a big win against Florida State. He was firing up his team mates in pre-game. He’s pretty much the exact type of player the Seahawks need.

— I’m watching the first quarter of Clemson vs Notre Dame tonight then the rest in the morning. The player I’m most interested in is left guard Aaron Banks. Every time I’ve watched Notre Dame so far he’s been the player who stands out. If you’re a fan of the Damien Lewis pick (who isn’t) then Banks could deliver a guard pairing with major long term potential. With Ethan Pocic still only 25-years-old, the idea of a blossoming young interior O-line is enticing. Notre Dame scored on a 65-yard touchdown run to start the game. Banks opened the initial gap before delivering a nice second-level effort. He’s a big, mean, athletic blocker with the size Seattle loves at left guard. He also switches out to play left tackle for some snaps.

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A thought on the Seahawks’ approach to team building

November 5th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s not something we’ve really discussed so I thought I’d bring it up today.

There’s an old piece of football rhetoric that suggests a sensible way to construct your team is to have experience on offense and speed/youth on defense.

It’s an understandable philosophy. Arguably the most important thing on offense is execution. A quarterback who can read a defense and get into the right play. Receivers who run the correct routes with precision. Blockers who are battle tested and understand their jobs.

On defense you also need to be organised and efficient. This is especially the case in Seattle’s scheme that demands cornerbacks stay on top and the defensive linemen play with great gap discipline. Arguably though, the most important thing is to be able to fly to the ball. The physical elements are vital — not just speed but also explosive power and strength.

An ageing, slow defense rarely succeeds. You want your organisers and your leaders on the field but you also want youth, quickness and the ability to cover as much of the field as possible.

Were the Seahawks conscious of this when they began their reset?

After all, they moved on a number of star defenders who were getting older. That’s not the only reason. Pete Carroll was trying to wrestle back control and re-establish his culture. Yet for the most part, they set out to build a younger group.

There are exceptions of course. You’re not going to have 100% experience on offense and 100% youth/quickness on defense. They kept Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and the likes of D.K. Metcalf and most recently Damien Lewis have started quickly as younger players on offense.

There are some noticeable trends, however.

For example — the Seahawks have used six picks in the top two rounds in the last three drafts. Rashaad Penny was taken in round one in 2018 in a good draft for running backs when the Seahawks prioritised fixing their running game. After that, they took L.J. Collier, Marquise Blair, Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor. D.K. Metcalf is sandwiched in the middle but that felt like an opportunity they capitalised on, having traded back into the final pick of round two.

That’s a fair old focus on defensive youth via the draft.

Alternatively they’ve moved to add experience on offense whenever possible. Their most expensive addition in free agency this year was Greg Olsen. Rather than spend a high pick on a receiver or running back (despite a very talented bunch being available) they instead signed Carlos Hyde on a decent backup salary and Philip Dorsett.

They traded for and then extended Duane Brown over the last three years. Their approach on the O-line since 2018, with the exception of the highly talented Lewis, has been to plug in veteran players on the O-line. This year they re-signed Mike Iupati and added Brandon Shell and B.J. Finney.

It’s possible this is all a coincidence or simply isn’t that relevant. After all — they also signed Ziggy Ansah a year ago and then traded for Jadeveon Clowney at great cost. They franchise tagged Frank Clark. Then again, Clark was a young core player and the Ansah and Clowney moves were necessary to try and create any kind of pass rush (rather than rely on Jacob Martin, Cassius Marsh and Barkevious Mingo).

The issues on defense and a lack of draft picks could change things. There’s a decent list of prospective or potential defensive free agents in 2021. Lots of teams are going to need to cut salary to get under the cap.

Von Miller could be a free agent. Franchise-tagged Matt Judon, Leonard Williams, Shaquil Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue and Bud Dupree are due to reach the open market. Melvin ingram, Ryan Kerrigan, Sheldon Rankins, Takk McKinley and Larry Ogunjobi are all currently set to be free agents. The Eagles, Saints and others might have to hack away at their rosters to cut costs.

Free agency is going to be massively unpredictable. Who’ll be available? How much will teams have to spend? How is the market for certain players going to change? How will players expecting big money react when it isn’t available?

It could create never before seen opportunities (or just a whole lot of frustration).

And as noted — with only one high pick currently (second rounder) the Seahawks are not exactly plush with draft stock to rebuild a D-line or replace a starting cornerback. They might lean on the veteran market on defense in 2021, especially with the offense looking relatively well stocked.

I suspect though that there might’ve been something to their approach since 2018 to build a veteran offense and a faster, younger defense. It’s logical.

The roles might be reversed in 2021 (and with another excellent receiver class emerging, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to draft a cost-effective #3 early). The suggestion maybe sheds some light on how they approached the reset though.

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New podcast: Bills preview, Vic Beasley & more

November 4th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Check out this weeks podcast where we discuss the Bills game in depth and reflect on the trade deadline and whether the Seahawks should consider adding Vic Beasley…

 

Tuesday notes & a lot of random Seahawks thoughts

November 3rd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

D.K. Metcalf has reached new heights this season

The trade deadline has passed

No further deals were struck by the Seahawks, meaning their only move was to add Carlos Dunlap last week.

I’m not convinced Ryan Anderson or Takk McKinley, two linked names, would’ve made a big difference. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced Dunlap will either.

That’s not to say I don’t think it was a good trade. It’s an A+ in terms of value and they needed to do something. I’m just not sure an ageing veteran, added mid-season, is going to salvage Seattle’s awful pass rush.

There’s hope after a better performance against the Niners that the defense can improve. They’re also banking on the likes of Jamal Adams and Snacks Harrison having an impact.

Yet Adams was still part of the defense that had no answer against Cam Newton and the Patriots. They still rely on the blitz for pressure and can’t play their natural scheme which relies on rushing with four. Nobody should expect Dunlap to provide a miracle cure in that regard.

We also saw the defense revert back to type once Jimmy Garoppolo left the field.

It’s going to come down to Russell Wilson and the offense to prop up the unit. He’s capable of doing it — but as we saw against the Cardinals, it can also be a burden for Seattle’s star player.

It appears teams were simply being unrealistic about value. Mike Garafolo reports that the Falcons wanted a fourth round pick for McKinley. He’s out of contract in a few weeks and hasn’t played particularly well for the Falcons. Plus he’s been injured.

Frankly, they were never going to get an offer like that and if that was the state of play ahead of the deadline today, no wonder it ended up being a dud.

None of the names rumoured to be available moved on. None of the teams in serious cap hell next year parted with players to try and solve the problem.

And it’s clear the move to cut Luke Willson today was indicative of Seattle not getting a good offer for Jacob Hollister. One of the many questionable moves during the off-season was to spend well over $10m on Hollister and Greg Olsen. So far, they haven’t got value for money.

The Seahawks stole a top-five pick

The draft is often about capitalising on an opportunity.

The Seahawks have been big beneficiaries of that. Russell Wilson had no business falling to round three. If he was cloned and playing college football today — people would be talking about him in the top-five.

He’s been a trailblazer for shorter QB’s and it simply isn’t such a big deal any more.

Seattle took the chance to take him and acquired one of the best players of the current NFL era.

The same thing is happening with D.K. Metcalf. There are legit reasons why he lasted in the draft that extend well beyond a poor three cone. That’s an overused narrative.

The main reason he fell is likely due to the fact he suffered a career threatening neck injury during his final season at Ole Miss. It was even reported he was considering retirement due to the serious nature of the injury. However, after receiving reassuring information from medical experts, he turned pro.

I’m not sure how teams felt about the injury but there’s no way a player with his profile should’ve lasted to the final pick in round two.

As with Wilson, the Seahawks have once again benefited. They saw an opportunity and took it — with a glorious reward for doing so.

Metcalf is far from the finished article but he’s shown encouraging progress in year two. His second touchdown on Sunday was a classic example of using his size to box-out against defenders in the red zone. He’s using his size and not just his speed to his advantage. He’s also grown more confident and more comfortable within the offense and in certain games he’s developed an ‘unstoppable’ nature.

From a physical skill stand point he’s a top-five pick. While the Seahawks haven’t been able to select as high as that since 2010, they’ve found someone in Metcalf who can genuinely go on to achieve legendary status within the league.

He has superstar potential.

The Seahawks haven’t always used an opportunity to their advantage of course. They’ve passed on highly talented players with extreme physical profiles too. Yet in Wilson and Metcalf, they’ve found the holy grail for their offense.

It’s an example of why it’s wise to draft for upside

Prior to the 2017 draft I wrote about Malik McDowell being pretty much a dream prospect for the Seahawks based on physical profile. I still suggested that they should resist drafting him as his personality and attitude felt like the antithesis of a Carroll Seahawk.

They took him and he didn’t play a down in the NFL.

I haven’t been as critical of the team for making that move as others though. I think the thought process was sound. They saw a player with top-10 physical skills available in the early second round. Their biggest position of need at the time was a dynamic interior defensive lineman. They’d also had a lot of success developing talented players with character issues.

If he’d never had any desire to get on an ATV, who knows where he’d be now? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we’d be talking about him in the same terms as D.K. Metcalf — wondering how a player of his talent lasted as long as he did.

Of course the pick gets even more scrutiny now because players such as T.J. Watt and Budda Baker were also available. Seattle took a chance on the wrong player ultimately — but it’s never irked me that much.

I think it’s a good idea to keep taking chances on upside.

They’ve had a few whiffs. Christine Michael is one of the best athletes to enter the NFL in our lifetimes. It didn’t work. Percy Harvin, who they traded for, is a special athlete. It didn’t work.

When it does come off, however, you strike gold.

Metcalf is the most recent example but there are others.

We’re all well aware why Frank Clark lasted until round two and I don’t really want to talk about that today. The Seahawks took a chance on him because he showed at the combine that he had the best combination of explosive athleticism and agility we might ever see from a pass rusher.

Bobby Wagner was a special athlete available in round two. Russell Wilson, by all accounts, had every special quality you want in a quarterback except height.

The upside potential of taking someone with a world class physical profile is pretty clear. It gives you a better shot to discover greatness.

Look at the Chiefs. For the last 4-5 years they’ve drafted for physical profile with each of their picks in the top two rounds. They always go for upside.

They’ve taken:

Chris Jones
Patrick Mahomes
Tanoh Kpassagnon
Breeland Speaks
Mecole Hardman
Juan Thornhill
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Willie Gay Jr

Can you imagine their offense if they’d taken D.K. Metcalf? They passed on him for Mecole Hardman.

There are a couple of iffy picks there but the rest? It’s the foundation of their Super Bowl team along with the freaks of nature already on the roster (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce) and the one they traded for (Clark).

Aiming high is always the way to go. It’s another reason why I’ve been loathe to criticise Seattle’s approach to the offensive line. Looking for the most explosive players up front isn’t a bad plan and the players they drafted, such as Germain Ifedi, had the potential for greatness. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Yet that same plan is probably how they came across Damien Lewis — one of the most explosive testers at the combine this year.

If you draft the most unique, physically special players in the top two rounds four years in a row, the chances are of the eight players you take you’ll find someone outstanding.

It seems pretty clear that is the approach taken by Kansas City.

I think the Seahawks should try and stick to this too. There’s evidence that they’re conscious of it. Yet as noted in this article I wrote back in July, I think they too often get fixated on certain positions.

In 2019 they’d traded Clark, saw a good looking D-line class and clearly felt they needed a safety (since that draft they added Marquise Blair, Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams — so there’s enough evidence to assert that with confidence).

Yet by being so committed to two positions, they ended up drafting a thoroughly average physical talent with limited upside in L.J. Collier. Nobody can question his effort this year but we can all see he has minimal upside.

We’ve not seen enough of Blair to judge but given they added Diggs and Adams after selecting him, that’s not the best review of their confidence in his starting potential.

Sometimes you have to address needs in the draft — but you can make a strong case for avoiding that situation at all costs and trying to find the players with the highest upside in order to claim the players who can define your roster.

It’s hard to judge Seattle’s 2020 draft in that regard. Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor were both praised for their athletic profiles once selected but the reality is Brooks only ran a forty at the combine (a decent time of 4.54) and Taylor didn’t do anything.

Help Russell Wilson break records

Wilson has 26 touchdowns in seven games. At his current pace, he will beat the NFL record for passing scores in a season. If he manages that, there’s no doubt he’ll be the MVP and the Seahawks will win a lot of games.

Yes it’s a team sport and Seattle’s success will depend on a lot more than making sure Wilson is statistically successful. Yet I think there’s something to be said for the personal success of your own star player.

You also need to strike while the iron is hot. There has been eight different NFL MVP’s since Wilson entered the league. Nobody has won it twice. Some haven’t even come close.

This could be Wilson’s best shot to not only claim the award but also set records, confirming his place among the all-time greats. Winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate prize but only one team gets to do that. Personal success stories are important too and I suspect the Seahawks are conscious of that. They might never admit it publicly but I think they will be working to help Wilson achieve certain landmarks this year — and rightly so.

It’s time to root for the Niners

They might be banged up and they might be drifting towards another gift of a high draft pick. However, their next three games are against the Packers, Saints and Rams.

Kyle Shanahan dragged his team off the canvas after they were hammered by Miami to inflict two comfortable wins over LA and New England.

For the sake of their draft position (it’s a top-heavy class) and Seattle’s chances to outlast certain other NFC contenders — it’s time to hope Shanahan has a bit more magic up his sleeve despite the unbelievable list of casualties in San Francisco.

Thoughts on Chris Carson & Shaquill Griffin’s contract status’

Carson has always had injuries — throughout his college and NFL career. The problem is, Seattle needs him. Badly.

He is the perfect compliment to the dynamic passing game. His physical style is the ideal fit for this offense. It also helps he can catch the ball too.

The Seahawks are completely defined by their quarterback these days. It’s vital that you keep his best weapons around him and add wherever possible. Metcalf, Carson and Tyler Lockett are all extremely talented and it’s important to avoid the kind of situation we saw in New England for Tom Brady and Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers where skill players departed and were never replaced.

Simply put, Seattle is a different team without Carson.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how they handle his contract situation. They can’t afford to pay him in the same bracket as Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Alvin Kamara. Yet they equally can’t afford to go into next season needing to fill the massive hole he will leave.

Look how difficult it was to replace Marshawn Lynch. They don’t want to go into next year with another Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise type combo. And I’m not sure Rashaad Penny has done enough to warrant faith to be the lead back, even despite costing a high pick.

Somehow they need to find a way to keep him — he just might have to establish his market in free agency first to keep the cost down.

As for Griffin — he’s really struggled at times this season. Until recently, having missed time, he was leading the league in targets and yardage conceded.

It’s extremely difficult to justify paying him big money and the Seahawks should be willing to risk letting him walk.

That in itself would create a problem with Quinton Dunbar also a free agent. They might need to add two starting cornerbacks. That’s simply the situation they’re in unfortunately. Who knows? Maybe there’s a chance for Richard Sherman and the franchise to come together and make things right.

Draft targets so far

Here’s a reminder of the players who have caught my eye so far who might be available in round two:

Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
Patrick Jones (EDGE, Pittsburgh)
Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
Dayo Odeyingbo (DE, Vanderbilt)
Paris Ford (S, Pittsburgh)
Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
Seth Williams (WR, Auburn)
Jake Ferguson (TE, Wisconsin)

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Instant reaction: Banged up Seahawks record superb win

November 1st, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

I voiced concern on Friday ahead of this game and to be honest, when I saw the inactive list that concern grew.

The Seahawks were suddenly decimated. One fully healthy running back. Penny Hart, a receiver, in reserve. They had a tight end rushing the passer off the edge. They were missing numerous defensive starters.

Meanwhile the 49ers were rolling despite their own injury crisis — having destroyed the Rams and Patriots in the previous two weeks.

Halloween was last night but this had all the makings of a terrifying afternoon.

Yet in the biggest game of the season so far, the Seahawks delivered their best performance.

Russell Wilson and the offense recovered from a difficult start by feeding D.K. Metcalf who was practically unstoppable. The passing game moved the ball just enough to help set up some balance later on. Wilson was at his creative best as he re-gathered momentum behind his MVP campaign.

Bobby Wagner had the performance he needed to have. He was everywhere. He was intense. He blitzed expertly and led this unit like he needs to. This was a statement performance from Wagner who has been under par in recent weeks. He finished with 11 tackles, two sacks, three TFL’s and four QB hits. He was outstanding.

He was well supported by a rag-tag cast of characters with backups filling in. Collectively the group did enough to help the offense establish a lead good enough to defend.

It was seriously impressive how they dealt with the Niners run game. Nobody is better than Kyle Shanahan at designing run plays to beat you with backup runners. He got nothing today — 52 yards on 22 carries. That was the key to the game. The Seahawks were ready for them.

Special teams also played its part as usual — with a good all-round performance including a turnover forced by Nick Bellore. The only blip was a missed extra point by Jason Myers.

I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about this game. Seattle’s coaches came up with answers when they were needed and in what was close to a must-win situation, while suffering genuine adversity, they avoided dropping to 0-2 in the division.

They got one they had to have.

Of course with this being the 2020 Seahawks, they couldn’t deliver a complete performance. The edge was taken somewhat off the defensive effort once Jimmy Garoppolo limped out and backup Nick Mullens delivered 20 points, 238 yards and two touchdown passes in one quarter.

It does make you wonder if San Francisco’s wretched offensive performance was more on the clearly injured Garoppolo than Seattle’s defense. Frankly, it’s ridiculous that we should even have to waste time contemplating that. There’s no way this defense should’ve blotted their copybook with that final quarter. At 30-7 it should’ve been game over with bells on.

Such is the current season though. Perhaps it’s for the best? The trade deadline is on Tuesday and they’ve still got work to do.

Nevertheless, this was a game they could’ve easily dropped with all the injuries. They didn’t and on a day when the Rams and Packers were beaten it’s even sweeter.

They needed this win. They got the win. They deserve immense credit for that.

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The latest rumours ahead of the trade deadline

November 1st, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Ryan Anderson continues to be linked to the Seahawks

With the Seahawks seemingly still interested in making some moves, here’s the latest ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

— Multiple journalists, including Adam Schefter, are reporting that Jacob Hollister is available via trade.

This isn’t a surprise. The Seahawks were overly cautious at the position this year, after losing Will Dissly the last two seasons and having issues with Ed Dickson’s health. They invested over $10m in Greg Olsen and Hollister alone, re-signed Luke Willson then drafted Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan

So far they haven’t featured their tight ends in the passing game much at all. They go into Sunday’s game against the Niners bizarrely carrying five players at the position on the 53-man roster. They can afford to move Hollister to raise some cap space and possibly acquire a day three pick.

It’s the only serious move they can make to create funds for a pass rusher. They won’t save much, mind, so it’s best to be realistic about who they can acquire.

— Schefter is also reporting that Ryan Kerrigan has requested a trade but Washington intends to keep him. It’s a bit surprising that they won’t grant him his wish, after such a long, successful career with the team. However, they are probably more interested in moving Ryan Anderson and retaining Kerrigan for depth/rotation purposes.

The Seahawks would struggle to fit Kerrigan’s salary into the cap without help. This is something fans need to keep at the forefront of their expectations. After acquiring Carlos Dunlap, it is much more likely they will now try to add a younger player on an expiring rookie contract. That, along with a Hollister trade, is doable.

Ian Rapoport is the second person following Jason La Canfora to connect Ryan Anderson to Seattle. He also believes Takk McKinley could be a target.

These are the two players to focus on I think. Both are on cheap contracts that the Seahawks can afford. They could come in and offer something a bit different to what Seattle already has on the roster. Although both have underwhelmed in their NFL careers so far, they could be highly motivated to reach free agency on the front foot.

McKinley has the length and speed Seattle craves while Anderson doesn’t have the athletic profile but showed a knack for rushing the edge at Alabama and delivering impact plays at key moments.

Neither is likely to cost much in terms of compensation. Given the links to Seattle, this feels like the place to look.

La Canfora says Anderson will ‘likely gone’ by Tuesday but Kerrigan’s contract is a problem for teams.

La Canfora also expects the Texans to be sellers before the deadline and once again he mentions Whitney Mercilus as a possible departure.

It would be a strong addition similar to Dunlap’s arrival. Yet the cost of the trade and salary, plus the burden Houston would take on for moving him less than 12 months after he signed a whopping extension, makes this one less likely than McKinley or Anderson.

— The one thing to also consider is how badly the defense performs today. It’s possible you’re about to watch converted WR/TE Stephen Sullivan rushing the passer. If the Seahawks lose off the back of a horror show from the pass rush again, don’t be surprised if they’re more aggressive by Tuesday.

They are still very limited in terms of what they can do — but this is their last chance to make a deal. After Tuesday, they’re stuck with what they’ve got.

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I am concerned about Sunday

October 30th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Wilson is likely going to need to do it all against the Niners

This was always going to be the testing period of the season. A self-inflicted loss in Arizona is a bad start to a run of games that could define the 2020 Seahawks.

After all, they started 5-1 a year ago. Then they lost at home, badly, to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a reality check that told us all we needed to know about the 2019 version of the team.

The title of my instant reaction post after the game was this:

‘Seahawks’ luck runs out, they drop to 5-2’

Doesn’t it sound so familiar?

Here’s an extract from the piece:

It seems they’re solely dependant on their offense. If they can’t run they need Wilson. Sometimes they need both. When teams win the LOS battle they struggle. The defense simply isn’t good enough to compensate on those occasions. Not enough pressure, not enough discipline, not enough big plays. Not good enough to contend seriously.

It feels like little has changed in 12 months.

I fear another reality check might occur on Sunday. The season could be exposed for what it is — a repeat performance. A flawed roster with glaring issues on defense and players who aren’t elevating their play — carried along by an elite quarterback.

The 49ers have had a difficult start to the year losing numerous key players. Yet in fairness to Kyle Shanahan and Robert Salah, they’ve righted the ship. They controlled the Rams and then hammered the Patriots.

Once again they look like a team that can cause you problems. They dominate with the perimeter run game, misdirection and outside zone. George Kittle needs to be accounted for on every down. Shanahan designs blocking schemes and wrinkles better than anyone in the league.

On defense they fly to the ball. They clearly miss Nick Bosa and the secondary is nothing to write home about. Yet collectively they are difficult to score against and they manufacture pressure well. The Dolphins game was an anomaly and their last two defensive performances have been very impressive.

The Seahawks were quite fortunate early in the season. Firstly, as it turns out, the schedule was powder-puff. Atlanta (2-6), New England (2-4), Dallas (2-5) and Minnesota (1-5) are not good teams. Secondly, Seattle made hard work of three of those games and easily could’ve lost to the Patriots and Cowboys. They probably should’ve lost to Minnesota.

The Dolphins are 3-3 and deserve credit for the way they are building gradually. Their performance at San Francisco was a statement win, even with Jimmy Garoppolo clearly not healthy and off the boil. The win in Miami was a good one for Seattle — although the Dolphins are in a period of transition.

Overall the first few weeks look like a comfortable introduction to the 2020 season that Seattle made trickier than it needed to be. They risked losing winnable games and eventually their luck ran out against Arizona.

The unbeaten start was a bit of a mirage. It was easy to wash away the defensive concerns or the streaky play because Seattle was winning. Here’s the thing though — Chicago, Arizona, Cleveland and Buffalo also have five wins. There’s nothing particularly special or indicative about being 5-1.

Seattle has glaring flaws and without the protection of ‘wins’ those issues are put under the microscope. More people are willing to examine problems after a defeat. The simplistic ‘yeah but they won’ retort doesn’t work.

Their pressure percentage is dropping week-by-week. They’re now at a measly 20.1% for the season. I spent three weeks explaining how blitzing will manufacture QB knockdowns and hits and that the higher numbers earlier in the season were a reflection of that. Since they reduced their blitzing, their knockdown percentage has dropped from 11% to 8%.

The big issue is and always has been their horrendous sack percentage which dropped back down to 3% this week. When they were blitzing 36% of the time it was 3% and now that they’re blitzing 26% of the time it’s still 3%. Neither plan has created sacks.

Trading for Carlos Dunlap was a necessary move to try and change their fortunes. The trade itself was an A+ in terms of value. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Yet Dunlap is unavailable this weekend and the Seahawks have a concerning list of injuries. Jamal Adams still isn’t practising and seems destined to miss out again. All of the running backs apart from Deejay Dallas are hurt. Shaquill Griffin is in concussion protocol.

There’s a real danger the offense will become one-dimensional as it did at the end of last season when all the running backs were injured. The defense is bad enough without losing starters.

My fear on Sunday is Shanahan will move the ball with ease. The Niners’ running game will dominate and the Seahawks, like most teams, will struggle to contain Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo’s impressive ability to drop, set and throw quickly.

Garoppolo has struggled when pressured and harassed. The Seahawks have to find ways to do that and so far, this defense hasn’t found any answers there. I don’t think they will do this but they might have to be more aggressive than ever in terms of blitzing. What’s the alternative?

Yet this is the crux of the problem. The staggering decision to rely on Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and Darrell Taylor to fix the pass rush this year has left them in a total and utter shambles on defense — where they’re having to go against their scheme and philosophy to desperately find something (anything) to stop the bleeding.

This is no way to be.

It will be left up to Russell Wilson to throw counter punches and yet in the last two games he has lobbed four ugly interceptions and had moments of toil and struggle.

And while the offense is prolific and explosive — it’s also incredibly boom or bust with terrible third down numbers. The Seahawks are 31st in third-down conversion, only superior to the winless Jets. Wilson has been horrible on third down so far and it’s contributing to the streaky nature of the production — best highlighted by a record-breaking first half against Arizona and then a shuddering, feckless second half.

The Seahawks also have to play cleaner than they are. For too long they’ve made mistakes and kept teams alive. Last Sunday could’ve been a comfortable win but for a series of individual errors — from Wilson’s picks to Mayowa’s bonehead penalty to missed tackles to Damien Lewis’ botched assignment to their inability to find a way to get D.K. Metcalf involved to David Moore’s holding penalty and the rest.

Pete Carroll likes to make light of the near constant closeness of Seattle’s games but it might be more beneficial to look into why the Seahawks have seemingly lost all ability to play a good, consistent four quarters that eliminates the need for so much late drama — particularly against inferior opponents.

I said in the podcast this week that I think this is the biggest game of the season. Fall to 0-2 in the division before you’ve even played the Rams and it’ll be increasingly difficult to win the NFC West. You’d then have to go to Buffalo, LA and host Arizona trying to address a two-game slide.

From 5-0 you could suddenly be close to .500.

If they come out of what is clearly the toughest stretch of the season having dropped a few games — what does that say about their chances in the post-season?

A 7-3 or 6-4 record in the future isn’t out of the question — which arguably would be a better reflection of where this team is. It’d also be a major disappointment after a 5-0 start.

Win against the Niners and it could galvanise the team again. I think Buffalo are beatable — especially if you run the ball effectively and challenge Josh Allen to play with patience. Two victories would take some of the pressure off against LA and Arizona — although an ideal worst case scenario has always been 3-2 from this stretch (meaning 3-1 the rest of the way now).

I fear an unravelling though. I’m concerned that Seattle’s striking flaws are going to be exposed against proper opponents and the defense will ask too much of Wilson. The cavalry (Dunlap and maybe another) might arrive too late.

This is a pivotal game on Sunday. The Seahawks need to prove the doubters wrong (I know I’m one of them). This isn’t a Niners team at full strength and that makes it all the more important to win and prove a point.

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