Carlos Dunlap must be retained in 2021
It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s been a revelation so far. His 3.5 sacks in three games barely tells the full story. The Seahawks’ pass rush was inept until his arrival. They needed someone, anyone, to provide some pressure off the edge. Dunlap is delivering that and it’s validating the A+ grade many people awarded the trade when it was completed.
There’s always some caution in celebrating a victory too soon. Quandre Diggs looked like an inspired addition a year ago but his play in 2020 hasn’t followed up a strong start. The same could happen for Dunlap, especially as he turns 32 in February.
However, the Seahawks have seen Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney walk out the door in back-to-back seasons. Eventually — they need to keep somebody and build around them, rather than constantly be looking for the next replacement.
Dunlap’s cap hit of $14.25m is steep in 2021 but none of it is guaranteed. A short-term extension that includes new guarantees to lower the hit would be wise — securing the Seahawks with a capable edge rusher to lead their pass rush.
The Greg Olsen injury has a plus side
Will Dissly is in year three of his rookie deal and Jacob Hollister is playing on his second-round RFA tender.
The Seahawks have smartly preserved Dissly after two serious injuries in back-to-back years. However, now is the time to test whether he can stay on the field. His talent and consistency make him a candidate to be Seattle’s long term answer at tight end. Olsen’s injury gives them a reason to see if he can make it so.
It’s also important to see more of Hollister. Do you want to re-sign him in the off-season? If nothing else, he has the incentive of playing in a contract year. He’s also been somewhat underused so far as a receiving tight end who could offer a lot more in the passing game.
There’s also Colby Parkinson. It’s often forgotten but going into the 2019 season, Parkinson had some tentative first and second round grades attached to his name. His stock dropped dramatically after a difficult season for Stanford, mainly due to the horrible play of quarterback KJ Costello.
We’ve since seen Costello go and struggle for Mississippi State after transferring and Parkinson’s raw talent and potential was largely hidden within a stuttering offense.
It’s worth introducing him into the offense — even if it’s only for the sake of experience. He has a lot of potential and could develop into a useful player for the Seahawks. He has great size and like most of the top TE’s in the NFL, he performed well in the agility testing at the combine (three-cone, short shuttle).
Harnessing his talent and expanding the roles of Dissly and Hollister could add a lot to the offense — especially given Olsen’s underwhelming performances so far.
They have to bring the intensity
By week 11 in 2014, the Seahawks were facing a crossroads.
They’d endured a tough season so far — highlighted by the Percy Harvin fallout and persistent rumours that they’d had enough of Marshawn Lynch.
A 24-20 loss in Kansas City looked closer than it was. The Seahawks were poor and fell to 6-4. It looked like they were going to struggle to make the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl.
The key veterans circled the wagon and hosted Arizona the following week. The Cardinals were leading the division at 9-1. It was a must-win game to stand any chance of catching them.
The Seahawks were snarling, angry and brutal. They played a typically physical game. It wasn’t pretty but they won 19-3.
It launched a six game winning streak. They beat San Francisco by the same scoreline on Thanksgiving and then ran the table. They finished 12-4, won the NFC West and returned to the Super Bowl.
The current Seahawks have far more issues than the 2014 group. They also don’t have Lynch, the LOB, Bennett and Avril and many others.
That said, a similar opportunity is emerging.
As with 2014, there’s nothing particularly scary about Seattle’s remaining schedule. They had a get-right win at home to the Cardinals, who were again leading the NFC West, and now face a challenge of building on that.
Six years ago the key was to really embrace the building momentum and thrive in the opportunity to smack opponents around, show them who’s boss and get the season back on track.
This year there’s a lot more to it. They have to try and play with sound fundamentals on defense consistently. As highlighted alarmingly by Brett Kollmann and Chris Simms this week — they’ve been making some hideous mistakes.
They also need to stick to the formula that helped get things right yesterday (essentially not depend exclusively on the quarterback), play with intensity and attitude and try to launch another strong finishing run.
In recent years they haven’t ‘finished’ very well. They’re only 14-10 in the final six games over the last four seasons. That includes three years where they finished 3-3.
Philadelphia (A), New York Giants (H), New York Jets (H) and Washington (A) is a four-game run they need to attack — setting up decisive NFC West rematches with LA and San Francisco.
They need to prove they can stay on track, win the games they’re supposed to win and continue to show massive improvement on defense in order to reinvigorate faith that this won’t be another wasted season. Yesterday was a good start — but it’s only a start until they prove otherwise. Contrary to what some people might think — the issues raised in the aftermath of the Buffalo and LA losses aren’t simply brushed away after one win.
Even so, the NFC is still wide open and that’s unlikely to change between now and Christmas.
Arizona aren’t actually that good
I thought the Seahawks would win last night mainly because I don’t think the Cardinals are that good.
Kyler Murray is clearly superb — although I was a little surprised that Fox dedicated their entire pre-game show to him, rather than an even split in what looked like a fascinating contest between two exciting quarterbacks.
Here’s the reality with the Cardinals though. They are missing their best pass rusher and their top three defensive tackles. They also have a few niggles elsewhere, including the quarterback and running back.
If it wasn’t for a hail mary last Sunday, they’d be 5-5 for the season right now. Had the Seahawks not thrown away the game in Arizona, they’d be 4-5. They’ve lost to the Lions, Panthers and Dolphins.
They have some terrific individual stars and will probably win nine or ten games. Yet realistically they’re probably nearer 8-8 than 13-3.
I still think if the Seahawks are going to win the NFC West it’s the team in LA they need to be most wary of.
Mock draft on the way
I’ve written my first 2021 mock draft and it’s ready to roll. I was saving it for this mini-bye week and will post it over the weekend.
Finally, if you missed last nights instant reaction podcast, check it out here:
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