Archive for July, 2022

DK Metcalf has signed a new contract

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

It was vital the Seahawks agreed terms for Metcalf.

As we’ve discussed previously, there was no justification for this dragging on deep into training camp. There were plenty of precedent setting deals to use as a framework, including similarly productive players drafted in the same range (A.J. Brown) and other top performers.

One way or another, the two sides had to come together. Financially it made sense for Metcalf, playing on a wildly outdated rookie deal. For the Seahawks, they committed to the player when they didn’t trade him pre-draft.

On paper it looks like a shorter deal so that Metcalf can reach the market again quicker than some of his peers with a bigger up-front commitment of $30m guaranteed. I am in no way shape or form a cap ‘expert’. If anything, I’d describe myself as the opposite of that. However, on first glance it looks like a good compromise for both parties and a contract that makes a lot of sense.

We’ll wait to see the finer details but this looks like a win-win situation.

I can’t wait to watch Will Levis throwing him the ball in 2023.

Meanwhile, here are some training camp observations from Curtis Allen after day one:

What I saw of the players with injury questions

Tyreke Smith opened camp on the PUP list. Pete Carroll said after practice that he ran well today in a separate workout and could be off the list soon.

That follows with what I saw today. His reason for being on the PUP appears to be of the less-concerning variety. He tailed the defensive end/pass rusher group through all their drills without his helmet on but seemed loose and even danced a little to the music playing.

Tre Brown appeared but seemed less-active to me than Smith. Carroll also said he should be off the PUP soon but just based on my viewing, Smith is closer to being ready to practice.

D’Wayne Eskridge took some punts but did not participate in the scrimmage. Carroll said he had some hamstring tightness.

Quandre Diggs looks fantastic. He did not wear any kind of leg or knee brace and was a full participant in warmups and drills and played in the scrimmage. At one point he did a backpedal drill and looked very comfortable really giving it a go. It appears he has recovered very well. Now it is the mental aspect of re-trusting his legs and making his reads.

Rashaad Penny – not injured but always an injury concern – looked great. He has always been a really good-looking athlete, so I am stating the obvious. But I did not see any hesitation or lack of burst in his first day out. He ran hard, ran through the line (a light-tackling type scrimmage to be fair) and when he cleared the crowd he accelerated all the way to the end zone multiple times. At one point Diggs gave chase and could not catch him.

Rookie Report

The Seahawks had a great draft class this year and it shows. All of these guys have a ‘wow’ factor just by the way they look physically and the way they carry themselves in warmups and practices.

Cross and Lucas just stand out, even when warming up in the OL group next to gigantic human beings Greg Eiland and Stone Forsythe. They are built differently, have a different fluidity and confidence about them. They get into their stances with a more athletic posture than the others do. That’s the best way I can put it.

They did not come out and stone pass rushers or flatten anyone in the scrimmages but remember, it is the first day of camp and they did not wear pads. The future looks bright at the tackle position.

Kenneth Walker also has an uncommon build. Standing next to similarly sized players like Josh Johnson and Darwin Thompson, you see the difference immediately. They’re all listed about the same on the roster sheet but Walker has tree trunks for thighs and broad shoulders to carry a load.

He looked great in the scrimmages. He trusted his reads and hit the hole without hesitation at times. In other reps, he showed what we saw in his college tape: take the snap and a step, hesitated to let a block clear up and then accelerated strongly. He also ran to daylight as soon as he got through the DL and had DB’s chasing him down the field. A welcome sign after being lightly chastised by Pete Carroll for not being in the best of shape in minicamp.

Boye Mafe also looked the part of a pass rusher. He did warmups with the LBs but shifted to drills with the DEs — a welcome sight. Even watching him do low-key hand-fighting drills with a coach was enjoyable. At one point they did a drill requiring players to bend around a blocker and Mafe did it seamlessly and fluidly without losing much speed. Players like Aaron Donkor and Vi Jones struggled to do the same drill even half as well.

The rookie star of the day without a doubt in my mind was Cobe Bryant. He just has “it” – a great package of size, speed, skill and confidence. In drills he was lining up off the WR a good three yards. He has that quality where he trusts his instincts and doesn’t panic as a WR is coming at him with 3 full steps and is about to make his break. He is positioned well, trusts his ability and reacts well. In the scrimmage, Drew Lock threw a pretty nice deep ball to a streaking Bo Melton but Bryant was right there step for step to knock it away at the last moment. Textbook.

I am not going to anoint him a starter at LCB based on one practice. But he is not going to just give the job away without a fight. Particularly if he keeps stacking practices like today’s.

Tariq Woolen is a tantalizing prospect. You know about the size, the arm length, the speed. What surprised me was the fluidity with which he moved in drills. He had better hips and footwork than I realized. The rawness might come from his lack of time reading coverages and building instinct so he can react in a timely manner.

I also liked that he didn’t mind getting physical with a WR on a run play in scrimmage. Add a little snarl to that size and speed and the Seahawks may have found a gem.

Best thing I saw today: The pass rush

Again, this was not a padded practice but the pass rush provided all kinds of trouble for the offense in the scrimmage whenever they tried to call a passing play.

Interior lineman Shelby Harris and Quentin Jefferson were a big problem for the centers and guards – Harris at one point ran a swim move so well it was like he was covered in Vaseline and accelerated to the QB. Jefferson likewise had the pocket moving back into the QBs lap.

Uchenna Nwosu came screaming off the edge and was right in Geno Smith’s face and deflected his pass. He got an attaboy fist bump from Pete Carroll for that effort.

If it had been permissible to sack the QB today, the pass rush would have gotten 4 or 5 sacks in about 15-17 pass rushing reps.

Let’s not dwell too much on what that means for the offensive line. Just bask in the glory of the Seahawks fielding a real pass rush.

The quarterback battle

It looks like Geno Smith is still in the lead, as Pete Carroll reaffirmed in his press conference.

He got more scrimmage reps with the #1’s than Drew Lock did.

They ran the ball a lot in the scrimmages so there were not very many opportunities to really see what the QBs can do. They had maybe 15-20 total passes between the three QB’s and the pass rush was right in their face frequently, so it is hard to judge.

But I’m going to do a little bit of that anyway.

Geno Smith looked like Geno Smith. When he has a snap and throw for a small gain, he’s fine. He hit Bo Melton right between the numbers on a quick slant (Melton dropped it but Geno did his job). He found Colby Parkinson leaking out to the weak side and he was able to turn upfield and gain 5 or 6 yards. He hit Noah Fant also inside for a nice gain.

When he is called on to handle a rush and make decisions, that is where things get tricky. His processing speed still does not seem NFL starting QB caliber and he rushed some throws. That said, he did have a dandy of a play where he moved to his right to escape pressure and found Tyler Lockett doing the scramble drill like only he can for a big gainer over Sydney Jones.

Drew Lock. I’m not sure what to say. He had some impressive throws in warmup drills. The ball zips out of his hands and pops to the receiver. He did have the nicely placed deep ball to Melton that Bryant batted away I noted above but that was about it for the scrimmage.

He did not get many reps with the #1’s, and based on today’s scrimmage I did not see a single thing that made me think that was an error in judgement on the leadership’s part.

He looks like he lacks confidence to me. Geno may not be a superstar but he warms up and practices with purpose and gives off a vibe that he is here to win the job. Lock looks unsure of himself and carried himself somewhere between disinterested and unconcerned, assuming he’s going to win the job because of his skillset (I’ll admit it was hard to get a read on him).

Today in the scrimmage he had maybe the worst throw off the worst decision I’d ever seen a professional QB make. He took the snap, moved left to evade some pressure and as approached the left sideline, had a choice to accelerate upfield and gain a few yards with his legs or throw it.

He chose both. After he crossed the line of scrimmage, he launched a wobbly duck across the field to a teammate who was streaking down the far-right sideline – a cardinal QB sin to be sure – and to make matters worse, he was adequately covered. It had the look and feel of a guy just reasoning ‘what the heck, might as well try something crazy to dazzle them at the end of scrimmage.’ The ball fell to the ground and the horn mercifully blew after that awful display, ending the scrimmage.

It was one bad day for Lock. I’m not condemning him forever based on it. But when Pete Carroll keeps going back to the well that Geno knows the offense and therefore has the pole position on the starting job, at this point I totally get it.

Random observations

— I could be totally wrong but it appears the Seahawks have asked the DT’s to slim down a bit. Al Woods and Quentin Jefferson look lighter to me. Mone again displaying effort to turn his back and chase runners down. Maybe this is part of moving to a 3-4, having interior players that are quicker?

— Cody Barton at MIKE and Jordyn Brooks at WILL in scrimmages

— Eskridge, Fuller and Swain fielded punts among others

— The tight ends lined up as halfbacks next to the QB in shotgun and/or were used in motion more than once. That was good to see some creativity there.

— Pete Carroll talked about this maybe being the fastest Seahawks team he’s coached. I get it. Adding Walker, Woolen, Marquise Goodwin, even Abe Lucas and his sub-5.00 40 to Metcalf, Eskridge, Penny and Lockett does seem enticing.

— The crowd there was a fraction of the fans that showed up last year. I understand completely that the star power has taken a hit this offseason but still, I was shocked at the low attendance.

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Some thoughts before training camp starts

Sunday, July 24th, 2022

‘Lost in Translation’ — pretentious rubbish

Into the darkness…

It’s easy to forget this — but quite a lot of Seahawks fans don’t remember life before Russell Wilson.

This includes some of the more, shall we say, ‘vocal’ members of Seahawks twitter.

Whether it’s due to your age or the rapid improvement of the team a decade ago carrying you along for the ride — there are quite a lot of people on the internet who haven’t experienced what might happen in 2022.

A really bad season.

For others, it might just be so long ago that we’ve forgotten what it’s really like.

I remember watching the film ‘Lost in Translation’. I saw it about a year after it came out. I was at University at the time. I thought it was great.

Re-watching it as an actual adult years later — it was nothing like I recalled. It was 102 minutes of absolute torture. I understood why a younger version of myself would give this arty-farty bilge the benefit of the doubt. Yet as a grown-up I just wanted to tell the two main characters (played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) to f-off.

Thankfully I’ve seen the light. I watched Top Gun Maverick in the cinema for a third time this weekend — a confession I’m prepared to make. I fear it might be the last great classic cinema experience.

The whole point of this digression is to point out that the 2022 season might create a similar feeling to that second viewing of Sofia Coppola’s pretentious borefest.

More than anyone I’ve been extolling the decision to have a clean break and ‘take some lumps’ this year. I think that short-term misery will present a quicker path to a return to success (through higher draft picks) than muddling along in no-man’s land.

That doesn’t mean ‘tanking’. People often lurch to deliberately losing for the #1 pick. It’s not about that. It’s critical the Seahawks try to build while they go through this process, as they did in 2011. I just think that can be achieved without spending resource on a minor quarterback improvement — which would’ve been the case with Baker Mayfield and will be with Jimmy Garoppolo — in order to win eight or nine games instead of five, six or seven.

The end result is no Super Bowl appearance either way.

Yet even as I promote this scenario, I accept it could be painful to witness. The 2011 season ended well as the team gained momentum through its defense and running game. But there were some awful moments too. Mainly because the quarterback play was horrific.

To be frank, this 2022 season could be worse. This time we don’t know if a Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas combo will emerge — or that any of these running backs can emulate Marshawn Lynch’s impact.

My memory of 2011 is also potentially clouded by what happened next — the successful addition of a brilliant franchise quarterback. Admittedly, it won’t be easy to do that again.

Thus, experiencing this coming season 11 years on might be a bit like that second viewing of ‘Lost in Translation’. It might not be as good as I remembered.

I’m sure some of the reaction to a bad season could be backlash to those who spoke positively about going through this. Having made the 2011 comparison to the current Seahawks and spent time saying what a jolly good idea this all is — it may be that I’m hoisted by my own petard if the losses begin to stack.

If/when we get to the point that things go bad — people need to get their act together and take it on the chin. I am prepared to do that but we’ll see how the noisy internet fanbase handles it — especially those who only know the Wilson era Seahawks.

This year needs to be about setting up the future. It needs to be about positioning to acquire a young quarterback of the future in 2023 while developing and shaping a better defense, O-line and running game to create the ideal environment from which to insert a young signal caller.

That is all we should demand or ask for.

As camp gets underway, that’s a message that probably bears repeating.

But it also could be difficult to watch. Some games could be really ugly. There might be little hope or enjoyment as the winter rolls in.

Still, it could be worse. You could be watching Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson playing two bored, rich people in Japan.

D.K. Metcalf’s contract situation

There was a slight glimmer of hope that the Seahawks’ top brass had an epiphany moment after the Wilson trade. Pete Carroll, for example, admitted they’d been ‘arrogant’ about the way they’d played defense over the last few years.

It was a welcome statement that suggested they were learning some lessons and moving on from some of the hubris that has dogged this team in recent years.

Yet since that press conference after the Wilson deal, they’ve since gone back to talking about ‘their way of doing things’ and have largely stuck to their guns.

In free agency they spent an absolute fortune to get not a lot in return. It means they’ve dramatically reduced their available cap space for 2023 already — as highlighted in this article. A lot of people are going to repeat over the next few months that the Seahawks have a lot of money to spend in 2023. They don’t. Not anymore.

They’ve also handled the Metcalf contract situation about as poorly as they could’ve done — allowing multiple top players to get deals done, driving up the market, following Christian Kirk’s league-changing contract in Jacksonville.

Short of Metcalf being unreasonable, which I suppose is at least possible, it’s unclear why they didn’t just agree to match or slightly better A.J. Brown’s contract with the Eagles right after the draft.

Now they go into another training camp with a contract question mark hanging over the franchise. It made a complete dog’s dinner of a situation with Jamal Adams a year ago — leaving the player undercooked, the defense ill-prepared and it was a media distraction for far too long.

They’re walking into the same thing again.

If they didn’t want to pay Metcalf a kings ransom they should’ve traded him — as the Titans did with A.J. Brown and as the Ravens did with Marquise Brown. By not dealing him, they indirectly committed to him. Now they need to do so financially by getting this done before camp begins.

They talk about their track-record of signing players as a positive but they’ve often paid too much, too late and created avoidable drama.

This needs to be sorted now.

I wouldn’t expect Jimmy G in Seattle

If the Seahawks were going to bring in another quarterback to compete in camp, you would imagine they would’ve been in the building by now.

You have to be able to lead. You have to be able to build relationships. You need to be the focal point.

It’s virtually impossible to insert a player into a position like that during a camp.

This is going to be a Geno Smith vs Drew Lock battle. A lot of fans won’t like it. I think it’s the right thing to do and I hope Lock wins the job. I want to see if there’s something there instead of watching a season of mediocre play from Smith. Yet Lock will have to grab the starting gig in camp and rightly so.

However — I’ll say it again. The key this season is to developing your young O-liners, creating a defense that actually functions properly and getting the running game going. Do that and regardless of wins or losses — it’ll be a successful season.

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Curtis Allen’s questions for Seattle’s offense

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

This is a guest post from Curtis Allen…

What does the offense look like without Russell Wilson?

The long-brewing divorce is officially complete and the Seahawks and Russ have gone their separate ways. Now everybody gets to experience the next phase: Living with the decision to move on.

One of the biggest storylines in the NFL this year will be covering how the Seahawks cope with trading their franchise quarterback.

Gone is the NFL’s most gorgeous deep ball, the Houdini-like ability to escape free rushers and the ironclad belief that the Seahawks can recover from three quarters of poor play with a dazzling fourth quarter flourish.

Also gone are the drive-killing sacks, the inability to use the middle of the field and the constant fake plastic happy denials that there are philosophical problems behind closed doors.

How do the Seahawks adjust? It is far more than just plugging in a quarterback as they did last year when Russ got hurt. If they are really intent on moving on, the coaching staff will need to truly adjust to the skills of the quarterbacks and players on the roster.

Do not get fooled by what you see in the preseason. They have hidden their offensive intentions well in recent preseason games.

Or even in Week One. The Seahawks have developed a habit of coming out of the gate extremely well the last two years, and then slowly sliding back to a blandly obvious strategy on offense as the season wore on.

Will the absence of Russell Wilson force them to rely more on the running game? To use the tight ends more and employ more short passing and fly sweep type options that work well with a reformed offensive line?

Being forced into these postures might actually be a good thing, a true ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ moment for the team. As well, with the team free of a quarterback with very strong views about how the offense is run, it might actually help them move away from their ‘all or nothing’ identity on offense (see question 3 below).

Time will tell.

Can the Seahawks finally solve the Tight End riddle?

For years the Seahawks have invested in the tight end position, only to get very little in return. The players they have spent most of their money on at the position are more suited to being pass-catchers than effective blockers in the run game. And yet, their production in traditional counting stats like targets, catches and touchdowns as a team has not paid off to a commensurate degree:

-In 2020 they were 8th highest in the NFL in cap spending on the tight end position and that yielded team production of about the 20th best in the NFL.

-2021 saw their spending drop – they were 26th in cap spending on tight ends (well, actually 17th if you count the void-year money they gave Gerald Everett that hits the 2022 cap) and once again as a team found themselves at about 20th in the NFL in production.

The cost/benefit ratio has for too long been stuck on the wrong side of the ledger. The Seahawks desperately need to get more bang for the buck from this position group. Particularly when you consider how much they have on the books in 2022 and the coming years:

-For 2022 their cap spending is about 12th with the bulk of the offseason activity completed.

-At this moment their 2023 cap spending at the position is very aggressive: they stand at 6th highest in the NFL.

-2024 spending is currently 12th with Will Dissly as the only tight end under contract

Has the lack of tight end use all these years been specifically due to Russell Wilson and his tendency to not regularly throw over the middle? Could a big glaring issue have that direct of a solution, simply changing quarterbacks?

We are about to find out.

With their investments the Seahawks are loaded with possibilities to utilize the position to ignite their offense. A regular “12 personnel” grouping with two tight ends, two wide receivers and a running back could open up some very interesting options. It certainly would disguise their run/pass intentions pre-snap very well, and they could also use that to their advantage in personnel matchups, keeping tired defenders on the field and exploiting mismatches on nearly every single play.

How about a red zone package with all three tight ends, a running back and a wide receiver?

They could have a Two Twin Towers-type package, with 6’4” players Dissly, Metcalf and Fant and the 6’7” Colby Parkinson ready to out-position, outreach and out-jump defenders.

Lining up Metcalf in the slot in this formation would be particularly advantageous. Imagine them breaking the huddle and lining up Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant wide, Will Dissly inline and Metcalf in the slot and watch the linebackers flail their arms at each other while trying to adjust, and they end up putting a short safety or a slower linebacker on DK. In the past, nearly every single time the Seahawks have put Metcalf in the slot, something good has happened.

Or how about instead of Metcalf, bringing in Eskridge and have him fly sweep to either take the run or draw defenders and get the inline TE to leak to the opposite side to get him all alone? Or send two of them towards the end zone and have the quarterback pick one to throw a jump ball to?

Their spending creates a lot of options there. The only limit is their creativity.

Tight ends are known for moving the chains and giving the offense options. The Seahawk crew will need to live up to that description if they are to improve the offensive output as a whole and support their defense better this year…

Can the offense hold their end of the bargain up?

As noted in the piece on the defense, the offense ran the fewest number of plays in the NFL last year. 954 plays adjusted for a 16-game schedule puts them in historic company.

In the last 20 years, only 4 teams ran fewer offensive plays than the Seahawks.

Put another way, of the 640 team-seasons in the past 20 years, the 2021 Seattle Seahawk Offense placed 636th in number of offensive plays ran.

The team recorded 83 punts, good for second most in the NFL.

Why was how poor the 2021 offense was not gain more attention nationally? Answer: They were 4th in the NFL in Explosive Play Rate, generating 109 explosive plays, balanced nicely between 56 passes and 53 rushes. That contributed to a ‘feast or famine’ outcome for the offense last year and kept them from being a complete and utter disaster.

There are several obvious reasons for the poor performance by the offense. Russell Wilson getting hurt and struggling to recover, Geno Smith being Geno Smith, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny missing large stretches of games to injury, and some curious game-planning and in-game decisions that they struggled to justify.

The offense’s inability to regularly sustain drives put an enormous burden on the defense, one that they struggled to bear at times.

Just one example: Week 16 against Chicago.

The Bears have put together a 15-play 71-yard drive that consumes over 8 minutes of game time. The defense stiffens in the red zone and the Bears decide to go for it on fourth down instead of taking the points. The defense stops them at the 2-yard line and they turn the ball over on downs.

Allowing a monster drive like that is nothing to be proud of on the defensive side. But still, the defense justifiably exits the field celebrating. There is now a golden opportunity to swing the momentum back to the Seahawks.

The offense fails miserably. They three-and-out, netting zero yards and Michael Dickson has to punt from his own end zone. The defense gets about 2 minutes of rest plus a TV timeout for the quarter end. That is not enough. Chicago scores a touchdown six plays later to tie the game.

In the second half, the Bears take the kickoff, get one first down and are forced to punt due to a tackle for loss by Darrell Taylor and a Rasheem Green sack. The Seahawks have nullified the kickoff advantage, get the ball and have a 17-7 lead. Time to step on the accelerator and put this game on ice.

The offense three-and-outs, again conceding all the momentum. The defense wearily returns to the field and concedes a 10-play 82-yard drive for a touchdown.

Predictably, at the end of the game, an exhausted defense cannot make a 7-point lead hold up at the Chicago 20-yard line with 2:56 to play. They concede a game-winning 80-yard touchdown drive and two-point conversion for a disastrous loss.

The 2021 Seahawk defense was nothing to write home about. But they were tasked with carrying this team without enough support from the offense far too many times, and it hurt the team badly.

There are many times in the NFL where an offense’s primary mandate is not necessarily to score, but to protect a lead. The defense had an unusually heavy burden placed upon them last year by the offense. The Seahawks cannot afford a repeat of that performance in 2022.

The defense features a new coaching staff, a change to more of a 3-4 look and will be integrating several young players into the mix. Coming right out of the gate and getting very little support from the offense might be a bridge too far and dig this team into a hole it cannot get out of.

The offense must provide more sustainable drives this year. One way they can do that is by regularly running the ball well…

What will the running game look like?

Having a thriving running game might be the single biggest factor to get this team moving in the right direction. It reduces pressure on the quarterbacks, gives the reshuffled offensive line some great forward momentum and enables the defense to stay fresh.

The stars might have aligned in a way to make that happen – there is an intriguing scheduling opportunity for the running game to take a nice step forward in 2022.

Last year, the Seahawks played 9 of their 17 games against the top rushing defenses. That is some tough sledding.

This year, they are only scheduled to play six games against the 2021 top rushing defenses, and two of them are against a team the Seahawks seem to be able to handle regularly (San Francisco).

Furthermore, ten of their games are against teams that were in the bottom half of the league in defending the run last year. There may be a positive progression coming in their running attack this year simply from which opponents they are scheduled to play.

Rashaad Penny ate poor rushing defenses for lunch down the stretch in 2021. Four of the team’s last five games saw Penny running at a blistering pace, earning a nice $5 million contract for 2022 that for all intents and purposes, is fully guaranteed.

So the opportunity is there. But as is the custom, the position group will have major injury and use questions entering the season.

Chris Carson has suffered a devastating neck injury. He has had treatment and can work out, but Pete Carroll has said the team will not know anything about whether he can play until he gets into camp and starts getting some physical practices to gauge the injury’s reaction to live tackling. From everything we are hearing, it seems unwise to count on Carson ever playing again. They might have to cut him with an injury settlement.

No one needs to be told how precarious Rashaad Penny’s health is. After recovering in 2020 from a major knee injury, last year saw him go on Injured Reserve for a stretch and be unavailable with lower-body strains and pulls for other stretches.

Slightly lost in the relief and excitement of Penny’s incredible finish to the season last year was the fact that he had a grand total of 78 rushing yards through Week 13. Eighteen of those yards were in one incredible burst Week 11 against the Cardinals, only to be followed by a visit to the blue tent and being shut down for the day. At that point, nobody could foresee anything but the Seahawks letting Penny walk in free agency and chalking up his Seahawks career as a top draft pick that could not deliver on his promise. He justifiably changed that conversation dramatically, but still…13 weeks of barely any contribution is concerning.

There is also a secondary concern about Penny that is rarely talked about. Does he have the motivation and desire to achieve greatness? His amazing burst last year was frequently chalked up by the team to Adrian Peterson arriving on campus and setting a tone for him. What did Peterson do that other teammates and the coaching staff could not in three seasons? Peterson is not in the building this year. Can somebody else light that kind of fire under him this year? Could he motivate himself to achieve that same level of greatness?

Given the state of their top two running backs, the Seahawks wisely selected Kenneth Walker III early in the second round and appear to be thrilled with the pick thus far.

They also have Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer returning to the roster.

So what does this all look like?

It would appear the most optimistic option with Carson is to be eased into the season, maybe placing him on the PUP list or Injured Reserve and re-evaluating his progress at regular intervals. That means Penny is the obvious first option, with Walker getting some carries and Dallas and Homer returning to their depth and special teams roles.

Can Penny actually put a full season of good play together? Between his injuries and his desire, it seems a very low percentage play to count on him being able to do so.

So there is uncertainty about the running game. But let’s focus on the aspects that the team can control for a moment. There are two significant areas that the team can address.

First, how do they integrate Walker into the offense? He is a high draft pick on a rookie contract with incredible ability. He needs NFL reps as soon as possible and, in many ways, seems as ready as any rookie to get some at this point.

Can Pete Carroll work with Walker’s integration into the NFL game and while giving him regular meaningful snaps? Or will we hear week after week after week that Walker is ‘fighting and competing in practice’ but come Sunday is nowhere to be found?

A scenario could easily be envisioned where Penny is hurt and Carroll turns to comfort-backs Dallas and Homer for most of the snaps, reasoning that they can pick up blitzes and help out the young tackles with blown blocks and missed assignments, and let their electric draft pick cool his heels on the sidelines, while the running game only nets 3 yards per rush and the offense fails to pick up any momentum.

Can the Seahawks step out of their comfort zone just a little and marry their investment of a high draft pick with actual playing time and live with any NFL growing pains, with a view to setting up the offense for success in 2023? Will they?

And second, can they rely on their running game in strategic planning? Penny’s excellent stretch last year featured a speed bump – Week 15 in Los Angeles. They only gave Penny 11 carries and he netted only 39 yards for them in a ten-point loss. Deejay Dallas also got 8 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. Nineteen carries are not enough to establish an effective running game.

We have outlined what the Seahawks need to do in order to be effective against the Rams. Running the ball keeps that explosive offense on the sidelines and gives the quarterbacks cover against their dangerous pass rush. Nineteen carries will not cut it.

Will the Seahawks – with more uncertainty than ever at the quarterback position – be able to actively use their assets in the running game in an effective way? Can they get creative in the run game and be able to be more sustainably effective than they have in recent seasons?

This is a bigger issue than a black and white “run vs pass” debate over style of play. If they run well, third downs are easier to convert. The offense stays on the field and the pass catchers get more targets. It is very possible that due to a more effective running game, players like D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and the tight ends can actually get more targets than they have in recent seasons, since the offence is generating more first downs, and from first downs more plays.

Can the Seahawks develop this offensive line for 2023 and beyond?

A best-case scenario is the Seahawks enter 2023 with about 4/5 of their offensive line coming off a confidence-building season and are ready to really solidify the offense for years to come. They only would need a top-flight center that can be acquired either through the draft or in free agency.

While it is laudable to want success as a team in 2022, every move they make this year on the offensive line should be done with a strong focus toward 2023 and beyond.

The Seahawks had a smashing draft this year, coming away with bookend tackles whose profiles read like players that could have 10-year careers for the team as cornerstones. Can they live up to their promise? Can Shane Waldron, Andy Dickerson and Pete Carroll develop these players during the live fire exercise of real NFL games and keep their confidence intact?

Both Cross and Lucas have great pass blocking bona fides, but their run blocking skills are a bit of a question mark – Cross far more than Lucas due to the offense he ran in college.

Pete Carroll shrugged off Charles Cross’ lack of NFL-style run blocking experience at Mississippi State in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense:

He can run block too. He can really move his feet and he can get off the ball and do the cutoff blocks from the backside and the frontside stuff. He can get on the second level and stay on his feet and be agile about all of that. He’s an excellent prospect to be a left tackle.

When you think left tackle, you think pass protection. That’s really the first thought. He had as much work as you can in Mike’s system. He is stout enough, and he runs really well.

The running game will be something we’ll focus…he’s worked on three-point stance in high school. It won’t be a big transition for him, he’s too athletic. We don’t have any concern about that. It’s just gonna be the process of getting him ready and adapting him to our game.

With a new quarterback, a high draft pick at running back and a stated desire to really emphasize the running game, it is absolutely worth monitoring Cross’ adaptation to this particular aspect of the NFL game.

Abraham Lucas on the other side was graded a brilliant 91 by PFF for his pass blocking – the best in the PAC-12 last season:

He has seen far more snaps in the running game than Cross (do not let anyone tell you Washington State still runs the Air Raid offense – they ran the ball 44% of the time the last two seasons). PFF had him graded at a 68.3 in run blocking. Not spectacular but also not awful. For a gauge, Brandon Shell typically graded out at 70-73 in run blocking for the Seahawks. That is not to say Lucas will step in Week One and be a 68 graded run blocker, but barring a massive struggle to adapt, there is plenty to work with and the Seahawks are happy they were able to land him in the third round.

What about Damien Lewis? He also tracked to be a long-term offensive line cornerstone type player right out of the gate. Then, for reasons passing understanding, the Seahawks moved him from Right Guard to Left Guard in order to accommodate Gabe Jackson in Lewis’ second NFL season. He struggled to adapt and Jackson did nothing to make that decision seem wise or necessary, clocking an overall 63.6 PFF grade last year at Right Guard.

Will Lewis stay at Left Guard this year? Or will the Seahawks restore him to the right side and either bench Jackson, move on from him or put him in the mix for the Left Guard spot?

This is a critical season for Lewis. What seemed like a slam-dunk “we’re set at Right Guard for the next 10 years” career track now carries as many question marks as answers. Can he earn that level of confidence at Left Guard? Or has that move stunted his development too much?

What about Phil Haynes? Is he the offensive line’s version of Rashaad Penny – talented and frequently injured but ready to make his mark on the NFL? The Seahawks tendered him this offseason at $2.5 million, but none of that is guaranteed.

Would they negotiate him down to about half that on 53-man roster cutdown day like they did with David Moore a couple years ago? You could argue the Seahawks have shown an extreme amount of good faith in keeping him around. Can he reward that faith with a starting spot and some effective play on the interior this year? Does he still fit what the Seahawks want in an interior lineman?

Do Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe have a future at a starting spot on this line? Or should they start working on their versatility to solidify roles as injury fill in swing type players?

The offensive line’s development in 2022 is absolutely critical. The likelihood they will be starting a new quarterback in 2023 is high. If they can offer him a rising young line to ease his transition – look out. He will have time to throw to Metcalf, Lockett, Eskridge, Dissly, Fant and Parkinson, and Walker to regularly hand the ball to. By the midpoint of 2023, this would be an offense that no one wants to line up against.

An interview with Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

Check it out…

Kudos to the Seahawks, they got it right

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

Baker Mayfield is heading to Carolina

It would’ve been very easy for the Seahawks to outbid the Carolina Panthers and claim Baker Mayfield.

No doubt they would’ve received plenty of supportive messages too.

Mayfield is a big name. The Seahawks have major question marks at quarterback.

This would’ve been a cheap, throwaway move with no long-term ramifications.

But they were absolutely right not to trade for Mayfield.

This isn’t about 2022. Let’s just keep repeating that. It’s very easy to live in the moment, demand an unspectacular upgrade at quarterback and harp on about the here and now.

Yet the priority for the Seahawks is to build a team and find a long term answer at quarterback.

Mayfield, realistically, is not going to be that.

Despite having offensive-minded Head Coaches, a superb running game, a great offensive line and weapons (expensive weapons) galore — he managed an 87.8 quarterback rating in Cleveland over four years. He had 56 interceptions compared to 92 touchdowns — a ratio that isn’t even 2/1.

We know what he is. We’ve seen what he is. He’s ‘not as bad’ as some quarterbacks but a long way off being anywhere near the top players.

He is a rung further up the ladder than Sam Darnold — and nothing more. A former high pick who needs a second chance. Ironically, his second chance will be the same as Darnold’s.

I suspect the outcome will be pretty similar.

But even if it isn’t — does anyone seriously expect Mayfield will be the long term answer for the Panthers?

Do they even believe that? Given it’s taken until the 6th July to take him on for basically a bag of footballs in a trade.

The Seahawks already have a reclamation project in Drew Lock. If you want to give someone a shot this year, give Lock a shot.

Otherwise the key for the Seahawks in 2022 is simple. It’s not about the quarterback. It’s about building the foundation for the future.

In 2011 they did that while enduring Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as starters. They still found themselves. Their identity. Their personality. Their style and swagger.

That is what 2022 is about too. It’s about building up your young players, creating the future base and structure of the team.

When they achieved that in 2011, they had the ideal roster for a rookie quarterback to join. They drafted him in 2012 and the rest is history.

They need to set the table again. Then, in 2023, they should be looking to draft their quarterback of the future.

It means this year probably won’t be pretty at times. There will likely be some ugly moments and some difficult games — just as there were 11 years ago.

By the end of the year they were rolling. They were ready to be more than also-rans.

This is the year to take a step towards recreating the 2012 off-season where they landed their quarterback.

If you have to be aggressive next April — do it. That’s the time to be aggressive though, not now.

Part of the reason the Panthers are trading for Mayfield and Darnold and drafting Matt Corral is because they’ve been waiting for a perfect player to fall to them. They snubbed Mac Jones a year ago despite coaching him at the Senior Bowl. They didn’t want Justin Fields. Or Davis Mills.

They’ve been too picky and not really had a clear plan other than ‘we want a great QB, let’s hope it happens soon’.

The Seahawks should bide their time until the next draft and then strike. I think the two key targets should be Will Levis or Tyler Van Dyke. The media will tell you it should be Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.

So far though I’ve been impressed with Seattle’s patience and willingness to play the long game. I’m still suspicious why they created cap space this year by restructuring Shelby Harris’ contract. Jimmy Garoppolo, as discussed, remains a potential option. We also brought up Darnold’s name a few weeks agoif Mayfield landed in Carolina.

They don’t need to make a trade to be 1-3 wins better in 2022. They need to rebuild. They need to reset.

And then they need to go and get a young quarterback on a cheap contract who can be their franchise star — not someone who has already shown he’s not up to the job.

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Curtis Allen’s questions for Seattle’s defense

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

This is a guest post from Curtis Allen…

Can the coaching staff avoid a sluggish start on defense for the third season in a row?

The last two seasons have seen the Seahawks start out on a horrendous pace:

— Through 5 games the 2020 team conceded an average of 471 yards per game

— Through 5 games the 2021 team conceded an average of 451 yards per game

How bad is that? For reference, the all-time worst defense in NFL history over a full season is the 2012 New Orleans Saints, who conceded 440 yards per game.

The Seahawks had them easily beat in those stretches.

One could even argue the 2021 season start was worse than 2020, given that the only Seahawks starter on defense who was new to the system and coaching staff was Kerry Hyder. This team had no excuses for such a poor first quarter.

Starters like Tre Flowers – who had earlier been lauded by Pete Carroll for having his ‘best offseason yet’ and had won the right corner spot, moving D.J. Reed to his less-familiar left side – spoke for the fans when he openly expressed that the team simply was not ready to play after a disastrous Week Three performance against Minnesota:

What happened? You cannot blame COVID for limiting the offseason activities, as all NFL teams had to deal with that. In fact, being one of the NFL’s best teams in number of cases should have provided an advantage. Yet it did not.

A preventable ‘hold-in’ by Jamal Adams combined with drastically changing his role in the defense only added to the challenges.

By the time the defense began to gel somewhat, Russell Wilson had suffered a serious injury and the offense struggled to hold their end of the bargain, culminating in a very disappointing season.

After the season Ken Norton Jr and Andre Curtis were fired, Clint Hurtt promoted and Sean Desai and Karl Scott were brought in.

How can they all get on the same page and start the season with a unified goal? Hurtt has cited communication as an important key to cohesiveness in a press conference last month:

“The biggest thing right now is there’s a lot of communication. In and out of different calls…so you have multiplicity….So with multiplicity, guys being on the same page, on all three levels of the defense is crucial. If not, bad things can happen. Guys have to constantly be on the same page.”

Very true and a worthy goal. However, we have heard platitudes and statements of intent the last two offseasons and the Seahawks have been unable to marry them to on-field results.

COVID may not be hindering the team as much this year but they will have just as many challenges to building a cohesive defense as any other year – challenges that impact every position group on defense:

— Starting safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are still rehabbing injuries and Adams’ role in the defense may change yet again with this new staff implementing a 3-4 style defense

— The cornerback spots are once again loaded with newcomers that need to get up to speed quickly

— Pete Carroll was coy when asked about where Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks will play at linebacker. Perhaps he is considering changing their roles? Combine that with a shift to more of a 3-4 scheme and you have the possibility of everyone learning new roles.

— On the defensive line, the Seahawks added Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, Tyreke Smith and need to further develop Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson

Can the Seahawks really integrate all these changes in a way that sets them up for success?

The good news is Hurtt is a straight shooter. He does not come across as someone who makes excuses for players like Ken Norton did. It is conceivable that he will be able to convince Pete Carroll to play the best players in positions that maximize their abilities, and let this defense come together with a shared vision far earlier than in past years.

Sean Desai was also a valuable addition to the staff. He has a PhD in education. He will need every bit of that teaching ability to help the staff put a product on the field that can keep this team balanced and effective early on while the offense finds its way.

Can this team get a reasonable return on their investments at the safety position?

The Seahawks have $17.4 million in cap space allocated to Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams this season.

They have $36.2 million in 2023 and $38.8 million in 2024 lined up for the pair.

When you add in the draft picks sent to acquire Adams in trade, you have a massive outlay by the team at the safety position.

For such a large investment, the return so far has been underwhelming.

While these two have brought the occasional highlight-worthy play, the $109 million in contracts the team has given them dictates that their play needs to ascend to something closer to consistently game-changing in order to get maximum return.

The exhilaration and forward momentum felt by fans when Quandre Diggs was first acquired in 2019 slowed to a crawl when the Seahawks acquired Adams and were blitzing him heavily in early 2020. Diggs’ job had been minimized from impact player, flying around and delivering timely hits and defending passes, to a safety net – being asked to stretch and cover the entire deep part of the field. The team badly struggled to adapt to this new evolution. The defensive line and corners could not give the safety tandem any consistent support and Diggs’ effectiveness was dramatically reduced.

Adams has a very long way to go to fulfill his promise. In 2020, the team went out of their way to create blitzing opportunities for him. In 2021, they completely shifted gears and had him play predominantly away from the box. They cut his blitzing in half and rarely designed the free looks for him we saw so often in 2020.

The results were predictable. He went from setting an NFL record for sacks for a defensive back to recording no sacks at all.

Both seasons ended prematurely for Adams with shoulder injuries, a poor PFF score and with as many lowlights as highlights.

Can this new defensive staff solve this puzzle? Or will a third consecutive season of re-shaping Adams’ responsibilities just be more gas on the fire of this rapidly declining investment?

A third season concluding in similar fashion would spell the end of Adams’ time in Seattle. The Seahawks can cut or trade him June 1, 2023 and pick up $11 million in cap room. There will be a $21.3 million dead cap hit but after three seasons it would be time to admit that the trade has not worked and move on.

Meanwhile, the question remains, can the coaching staff utilize this pairing with creative packages and movement, while keeping the defense balanced and yet unpredictable?

That seems like a lot to ask. There is some optimism though with a fresh perspective from the coaching staff and some pass rush talent the team has added.

Can this defense get off the field?

Last season this defense led the NFL in most plays faced last year with 1,201. Even adjusted for 17 games, that is the highest number of snaps faced by an NFL team in years.

This is most certainly a function of the offense also having the fewest plays run in the NFL with 954.

Think about that. The defense on a weekly average faced 14.5 more plays than the offense. That is nearly two extra possessions every single game. Simply put, the offense’s inability to sustain drives placed a big burden on the defense.

We will get to the offensive challenges soon enough. But that does not absolve the defense of all responsibility.

Once again, the pass rush last year was abysmal. The Seahawks were in the bottom ten in the league in both sacks and pressures.

They were also in the bottom ten in takeaways generated.

They conceded an incredible 400 first downs on defense, just shy of the most in the NFL to the Jets at 401 first downs. Both of those teams ranked among the worst defensive seasons in years in this area.

But perhaps the worst stat of all is how they defended passes to the running backs.

Through sixteen games the Seahawks had conceded 1,038 yards passing to opponents’ running backs, far and away the worst number in the NFL in 2021.

How far and away? It was historically bad – the worst number since Pro Football Reference started tracking the stat in 2015.

Put it this way — the modern NFL record for receiving yards by a running back? Marshall Faulk with 1048 yards in 16 games in 1999. So, on average, the Seahawks defense conceded a prime-era Marshall Faulk number of passing yards every single week. No wonder they could not get off the field.

They must improve. It is the single-biggest area where they could gain ground in 2022.

They might as well tackle this problem head on. More than half of their opponents in 2022 feature a top-10 caliber pass catcher at the running back position.

Ken Norton had defensive lineman covering running backs at times. From everything Clint Hurtt has said, they appear to be going away from that model. It is entirely possible the biggest reason the Seahawks have moved towards more of a 3-4 alignment was to specifically address this one gigantic weakness.

If they can stem the tide and get off the field, it will be worth it. Even returning to just a league-average position in this area will provide some stability.

Can the team distribute the defensive snaps in a more effective way in 2022?

The Seahawks have produced some seriously head-scratching moments with their snap distribution in recent years, particularly on defense.

Just some examples from last season:

Week Two against the Titans: Rasheem Green and Benson Mayowa play 78% of the snaps on defense while Carlos Dunlap and Darrell Taylor get 30% and 26%. Alton Robinson makes a fantastic play, strip-sacking Ryan Tannehill and two plays later the Seahawks score a touchdown. Has he earned more snaps? Absolutely. Does he get more snaps? No. He plays a grand total of 18 snaps in the game, and the tired defense is shredded in the second half. After the game, Pete Carroll blamed the issue on ‘substitution challenges’ which if true, is an embarrassing admission for a professional football team.

Week Seven against the Steelers: The Seahawks are desperate for pass rush. Their prize young rusher Darrell Taylor is carted off the field with a scary-looking injury. Do they turn to their other young rusher, Alton Robinson for a jolt? No. Robinson records one measly snap on defense. Again, the Seahawks turn to Rasheem Green and Benson Mayowa for the bulk of snaps. They record one pressure and no sacks between them.

Ben Roethlisberger – probably the least mobile quarterback in the NFL – has a consistently clean pocket and the Seahawks had no defensive answers despite taking the game to overtime.

Week Eight against the Saints: Darrell Taylor is a precautionary scratch. Again, Benson Mayowa logs 78% of the snaps while Robinson and Dunlap only get half that amount at 39% each. Mayowa has very little impact with zero pressures or sacks as the Seahawks only pressure Jameis Winston in 17% of plays.

Are you sensing a pattern here? Incapable veterans are being played ahead of talented but unproven youngsters.

What did Benson Mayowa do to secure such a prominent role on the defense? A career part time player is all the sudden playing well above 70% of the team’s snaps in the most critical stretch of the season.

Did all those snaps provide good results? See for yourself. He ended 2021 with one sack, six pressures and a 59.4 PFF grade and is currently an unsigned free agent. He is the living embodiment of a replacement-level player.

You can practically draw a line from Mayowa’s 2021 individual performance to the defense’s performance overall. What’s more, you have a young player on a rookie contract in Alton Robinson that showed development in his rushing defense and real pass rush promise on a team starving for it and his snap percentage actually decreased in 2021.

What exactly was the benefit of that arrangement?

For this year the question is — can the defense find a good mix of playing the experienced veterans while getting the young players crucial development time? Or will we again witness veterans logging heavy snaps while potential defensive building blocks like Boye Mafe, Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson have their NFL experience curtailed?

Is Uchenna Nwosu this year’s version of Benson Mayowa, providing merely adequate play while simultaneously blocking younger players from developing?

The Seahawks have collected an impressive group of talented young cornerbacks. They also wisely covered themselves with veteran free agent signings to assure depth and experience is provided at the position. But will we witness Carroll once again opting for the comfort of experience and mediocre yet predictable play over the unknown of youth and talent at the position? It would not be surprising to see the veterans starting at all three corner spots Week One. But by Week Six or Seven, if future prospects like Tre Brown and Coby Bryant (and even raw but immensely gifted rookie Tariq Woolen) are not being worked into the mix, that is a serious problem.

Why? Artie Burns, Justin Coleman and Sydney Jones are all on one-year contracts. If they log the bulk of the snaps in 2022, there will be no confidence going into 2023 – likely when the rookie quarterback salary cap window opens – to know what they have back there. If the Seahawks do not have a firm grasp on what the future of the cornerback position holds by then, that would be a major mistake.

It could easily lead to a repeat of what we have seen in recent years – the Seahawks spend crucial cap dollars on veteran players for one-year contracts in the name of experience and stability, with Pete Carroll justifying it by reasoning that it is too risky to just hand the young players the job and with his ‘competition’ mantra combined with a strong desire for the security of having veterans on the field.

Can the Seahawks trade some predictability for long-term growth and development? Will they?

Can Pete Carroll develop trust in this defense?

With all these moving parts we discussed, it seems unlikely in the early going that he will make decisions based on confidence in the defense.

Pete Carroll has always been one of the most conservative coaches in the NFL in going for it on fourth downs. That may or may not change.

But what has changed? The number of times Pete elected to punt in the opponent’s territory. The Seahawks led the NFL in a very specific and telling stat — Michael Dickson punted 21 times inside the opposition’s 50-yard line.

For instance, the Seahawks twice chose to punt inside the 40-yard line in the Week Seven game against the Steelers, rather than go for it or attempt a long field goal try. Both times, Dickson and the special teams unit could not down the ball deep and it fell into the end zone for a touchback. The net gain on both was about 18-20 measly yards. On the first punt, the Seahawks intentionally took a 5-yard delay of game penalty to give Dickson more room. It did not help.

Were those decisions borne strictly out of an intuition that the defense could not make the stop? Not necessarily. The offense was having its own troubles. A hallmark of the 2021 Seahawks offense was regularly shooting themselves in the foot when in field goal range.

But given how spectacularly bad this defense was at forcing punts, that certainly played a large part in Pete Carroll’s thinking. This defense forced Pete Carroll into a posture of mistrust, and his decisions frequently evidenced that in 2021.

Perhaps the new coaching staff can give Pete more confidence, shape his perspective and help him move his needle from extremely conservative to slightly more aggressive.

It will be up to this defensive coaching staff and personnel to make decisions like that pay off though.

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