The Seattle Seahawks announced to day that they have signed strong safety Kam Chancellor to a multi-year contract extension. The exact details remain in question:
That’s more money that I was expecting to see in this extension. $7 mil/year places him among the highest paid players at his position. Chancellor is very good, but this contract seems excessive for a player of his skill set.
Of course, it all depends on the structure of that money. We don’t know is Chancellor any of that money in 2013. I’d bet that he does, which makes the year’y cap hit less than $7 mil/year. If much of that total number is pushed into the years after the guaranteed money ends, then the “real money” in the contract would be much lower.
This extension also put pressure on the team to find salary cap relief at other positions. The team already has large pay-days coming for Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas next year, as well as Russell Wilson the year after. This extension for Chancellor, while necessary, puts the upcoming cap issues in front and center.
I expect we’re going to see a few vets replaced with lower cost replacements before this season starts. Michael Robinson, Paul McQuistan, and Breno Giacomini all come mind.
The Seahawks only have 13 free agents right now, and the vast majority of those are either late season injury replacements or guys who rarely got on the field. This is because the high priority players, like C Max Unger, were signed to extensions a year ago.
So who are the players who are going to be entering their contract year this season, and which of those should Seattle try and re-sign now instead of waiting and possibly losing them?
Unrestricted Free Agents
This list has some starters, which is never a good sign. Kam Chancellor is the biggest name, and he’ll likely be extended soon. Michael Robinson is another one who likely will get a new contract soon.
Other than that, the rest are likely to get to this time next year before the Seahawks begin talking contracts with them. Both Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan are starters right now, but neither is irreplaceable. McQuistan likely loses his starting job to Sweezy and Carpenter in training camp, and Breno was bad enough at time in 2012 that the team will certainly look for an upgrade there this offseason.
The real question mark is Golden Tate. He had a bit of a “break out” year in 2012, but was still wildly inconsistent. The Seahawks will almost certainly draft a WR early this year, and might look to free agency for another WR. My guess is that the Seahawks wait it out and see how 2013 goes before deciding on what to do with Tate.
Two other players on that list, Deter Davis and Walter Thurmond, have to prove they can stay healthy before the Seahawks will consider re-signing them. After that there’s a number of backups who will just be fighting for a roster spot, so there’s no reason to lock them up early.
So overall, other than Chancellor and Robinson, I don’t see the Seahawks looking to lock up many of their free-agents-to-be this offseason.
Restricted Free Agents
Restricted free agents are almost never signed to an extension early. There’s just no reason to. Players can go out into the free agent market and set their own value, then their old team has the chance to match the deal, or get a draft pick. It’s a low stress scenario for the team with the rights to the player.
As the season comes to an end, it comes time to reflect on not only what happened in 2012 but Seattle’s outlook for the future. I suppose I could save you and I some time and say that the outlook is “bright” and/or “good” but I tend to be a more thorough person than that. When looking into the crystal ball at a team’s future you have to evaluate their “core”. If the core is too old or too flawed then the team is likely to struggle down the road, unless it can find new core players, probably in the draft, to build around.
When we talk about the core and core players it’s hard to know exactly what it is we are talking about. Usually a core player is someone worth building around; someone you know is going to stick around for a while. As is always the case, the contract is almost as important as the talent level. It’s hard to think of someone as part of the core of your team if they have an expiring contract, unless the plan is to franchise tag them every year like the Seahawks did with Walter Jones for a time. To summarize, the two major criteria for a core player are talent and a contract.
That being said it has always been a bit of a feel thing for me. Similar to how some players feel like Hall of Famers and some don’t even when their objective differences might be slight. That ambiguity is why I’ve developed a mental exercise to determine who the core of this team is. I simply ask myself, “would I consider buying that X player’s jersey?” and if the answer is yes they are probably a core piece. This is particularly pertinent to my life at the moment as my most up-to-date Seahawks jerseys are a Ken Hamlin jersey and a Shaun Alexander jersey. I understand that everyone has their own thoughts on jerseys and some people just buy their favorite player’s jersey but considering the expense, and my desire for the jersey to remain current for as long as possible, I’ve always considered it a big commitment/something worth putting a lot of thought into. In the case of Ken Hamlin I gambled and lost (largely due to very unfortunate circumstances) in 2005, thinking he was a core Seahawk coming out of his 2nd year on the way up. I don’t want to get burned again.
As a result this article can either be seen as identifying/evaluating the Seahawks’ core or a column on jersey buying advice. Whatever floats your boat….. We’ll start on offense.
Firstly, I’d put a disclaimer that I haven’t included o-lineman here, mainly because very few people seem to buy those jerseys. That being said Okung and Unger are both absolutely jersey worthy core players but if I had to choose I’d go with Unger because of his less scary injury history.
Russell Wilson: Wilson was the 4th ranked passer in the NFL as a rookie. He also was ranked 4th in the all-important yards per attempt statistic. He tied the rookie record for TD passes, without setting any records for interceptions like a certain Peyton Manning did. Wilson was also a fantastic runner which opened up some deadly read-option looks for this offense. His game isn’t perfect and he may suffer through some struggles down the road and a little bit of regression to the mean but I can’t conceive of a single reason not to not only consider him part of Seattle’s core but its most important part and to be very happy about this fact. Gushing over. Verdict: I would be proud to don his jersey.Wilson is the present and future.
Marshawn Lynch- To put it succinctly Lynch is a definite yes. Even so, running backs break down like it’s nobody’s business and Lynch does take a pounding so it’s not as much of a slam dunk as you might think. The thing is his accomplishments with the Seahawks so far and his superstar Beast Quake moment are already so legendary that his jersey would be a credible one to own 20 years from now even if he had a career ending injury tomorrow. In terms of his real life value to the Seahawks, he is under contract from three more years and is still in his prime (26) so he’s very much a core piece. Verdict: Yup.
Sidney Rice- Now we are out of the obvious candidates things get a little bit tricky. Rice is 26, he’s under contract for 3 more years, he’s Seattle’s #1 receiver and he’s good so all signs point to a yes here. The problem is twofold. Firstly, Rice has been immensely injury prone and that could severely alter his career path making your Rice jersey look foolish in the years ahead. Secondly, wide receiver is a position group that the Seahawks are trying to improve, probably fairly aggressive and possibly with the addition of another big-ticket free agent acquisition like Dwayne Bowe. It’s not so much that Rice is likely to be displaced or dislodged as there is a risk his importance diminishes over time. The development of Golden Tate could also be a factor. Verdict: Rice is a great receiver, but I can’t bring myself to confidently identify him as a core player for the Seahawks or purchase his jersey. Which hurts because I really like Rice.
Honorable Mention: Golden Tate- Although Tate is two years younger than Rice and seemingly on the way up you are banking heavily on a fair amount of additional development by calling him a core player. Also he hasn’t signed a contract extension and has yet to reach the level of value to the team wherein said extension is an inevitability.
Richard Sherman- There is a strong argument to be made that Richard Sherman is the best player on the Seahawks and at 24 he’s clearly a core piece for the future. My only concern is that he is only under contract for two more years but he’s a player that I’d seriously consider extending this off-season even though the first team all-pro has so much leverage coming off a great year. I think a deal gets done; I’m not suuuure I’d buy the jersey until it does but that’s probably overly cautious on my part. Verdict: Love Sherman, he’s incredibly important to the club and his jersey is a must-own.
Earl Thomas- Everything that I just said about Sherman applies to Thomas. Thomas is actually younger at 23 even though he has played an additional year in the NFL. He is a two time Pro Bowler at 23 and despite being posterized by Jacquizz Rodgers last week is an essential core piece. Same contract situation as Sherman although his lofty draft status has him far better compensated at this moment, likely making an extension less of a priority. Verdict: Earl Thomas is a fantastic player and wearing his name on your back will only make you a better person by extension.
Bobby Wagner- He’s already a great anchor for this defense and there is no reason why he shouldn’t get better and better with experience. An underrated find by Pete Carroll and Co. Absolutely a core player and not a free agent until 2016. One of the best players on arguably the best defense in the league already. Verdict: Buy the damn jersey
Brandon Browner: Although controversial in his playing style Browner has been undeniably effective since making the leap from the CFL to the NFL. He does play second fiddle to Sherman to an extent but is a Pro Bowl corner in his own right coming out of only his second year. This all sounds promising but there are two issues. One is that Browner turns 29 this year playing a position at which it is difficult to age gracefully. The second is that his contract only takes him through 2013 (to be fair he’ll be an RFA after).Browner is going to command big money, money that the Seahawks may well be saving for Richard Sherman. I can’t say with a great deal of confidence that Browner will be in Seattle in 3 years and even if he is he will be 31 and likely not quite what he once was. Great player, not a core player. Verdict: I’d steer clear of a Browner jersey, though you could do a lot worse.
Kam Chancellor: My personal favorite Seahawk. This one hurts. Chancellor is only 24 and has a Pro Bowl berth to his name in 2011. The problem is he’s only signed through 2013 (followed by UFA unlike Browner), I’m inclined to think that he’ll get an extension but unfortunately that isn’t the only problem. At this point I’m not exactly sure how good Kam Chancellor is. Aside from a couple of highlight reel hits he wasn’t a big factor in 2012. Chancellor did very little in coverage this year with his INT’s falling from 4 in 2011 to 0 in 2012 and his PD’s dropping from 12 to 4. He wasn’t a liability he just wasn’t a game changer. Verdict: My heart says, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” and my head says, “no”. Regardless if I see someone in a Chancellor jersey my going in assumption is that we will be best friends.
Honorable Mentions: Basically every starter on defense was considered here but most had enough red flags to not be worth delving too far into. Here’s a quick summary.
Chris Clemons- too old, current nasty injury
Red Bryant- not a game changer this year, not convinced they won’t dump his hefty contract at some point
K.J Wright & Brandon Mebane- check all the boxes in theory but neither are quiteee good enough. As I said this is a bit of a feel thing.
Bruce Irvin- too large a range of outcomes for his career, still a complementary player
Overall there are a lot more options on defense than offense which really shouldn’t come at a surprise given the way this team is designed. At the end of the day we wind up with a “core” of Wilson, Lynch, Wagner, Sherman and Thomas, to which you can add Unger and Okung. None of these players are above the age of 26 and 5 of the 7 have made Pro Bowls. That sounds like a pretty impressive core not only for 2013 but for many many more years as well. Not only are these players in their prime but they are also still developing and getting better. I’m not sure if you guys know this but this Seahawks team is really good, and it’s going to be really good for a while. Having done all this I don’t know which jersey I would buy, but that’s sort of a first world problem. The fact there are too many great players on my favorite team is something I can live with.
Tags: Bobby Wagner, brandon browner, Earl Thomas, featured, football, Golden Tate, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, nfl, Popular, Red Bryant, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, sidney rice
With the regular-season over, I thought I’d look back at the predictions I made before the regular season started. This was the first time I’d done NFC West predictions and it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Even reading the hometown newspapers and scouting the team’s fan websites, getting the predictions right for a team over an entire season was a lot harder than picking week to week game winners or managing a fantasy team.
One of the things I wasn’t able to predict was what a powerhouse the NFC West would become throughout the season. From teams like the Cardinals starting off 4 and 0, to the scrappy repuation of the Rams, to the “team that no one wants to play” nickname that got hung on the Seahawks to the flawless defense of the 49ers… The NFC West definitely made a name for itself this year. So let’s look back and see what I predicted!
Number 4- Arizona Cardinals – Even their own fan base is down on the Cards. With a tough schedule at the start including Seattle, Philly and New England, the Card’s iffy QB and lackluster O-Line will be challenged as they come out of the gate. Even the end of the season schedule does them no favors with an away game to Seattle, playing Chicago and Detroit at home and then finishing at San Fran. This team will be truly tested. Expect to see Kalb playing again as Skelton struggles. Even with a few surprise wins during the season, the Cards will be in the bottom of the NFC west this year.
Note: I’ll take this. The cards did have some surprise wins but their schedule and QB injuries were far more than they could handle.
Number 3- St Louis Rams – The Ram’s youth as team remains a question mark for this season even as QB Sam Bradford settles into his job as somewhat of an elder statesman as a two year man. As the youngest team in the NFL, there have been plenty of jokes regarding Fruit Loops and Cartoons at the hotel… But, this team has done a drastic restructure and is prepared to live with the consequences. There are 17 rookies on the St. Louis Rams’ opening day roster, seven more players age 24 or younger and 31 in all on the 53-man roster who were not with the franchise last season. Expect to see flashes of brilliance as well as plenty of penalties in the first part of the season as the team gels. The Rams will finish behind the dual powerhouses of Seattle and San Fran.
Note: I’ll take this one too! The Rams did show flashes of brilliance and despite the strong efforts of Sam Bradford they did finish a good distance behind Seattle and San Fran (Although their gutsy play against San Fran got them the tie this year, which was very impressive!)
Number 2 – San Francisco 49ers – While there are any number of claims that the opening 49er/packer game may be a preview of the NFC playoff, there are those in the club house wondering if things will go as smoothly this year as they did last year. In an effort to keep their NFC west champ status, the 49ers brought in Moss and Manningham to help Smith improve his passing performance that was 29th out of 32 last year. With a top ranked D to fall back on should offense become stagnant, expect the 49ers to be competitive. Their real challenge will be remaining consistent as 4 of their last 6 games are on the road. Their D will keep them in 2nd place behind the Seahawks.
Number 1 – Seattle Seahawks – After the changes made in the off-season, it’s hard to say the Hawks won’t take their division. Unlike other teams wondering which QB to start, Seattle has two excellent options instead of “the lesser of two evils”. Russell Wilson has shown excellent skills and preparation and has a fascinating group of receivers to throw to including free agent Braylon Edwards who was sterling in preseason. Factor that in with the improved O-line (Hello JR Sweezy!), the improved running game (Mr. Turbin) and the strength of the Hawks D, and you have the team most likely to win the west! While their passing D was ranked 11th last year, expect that to be even more improved this year with the addition of Bruce Irvin and his outside speed when he rushes the passer. The Hawks secondary is loaded with pro bowl level talent (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor – otherwise known as the Legion of Boom) and should give opposing QBs nightmares. Expect the Seahawks to take this division despite closely contested games with the 49ers.
Note: I totally got the order wrong between San Fran and the Seahawks. I knew it would be close but I erred on my estimate regarding how long it would take Russell Wilson to become proficient. I also missed the contribution Bobby Wagner made and I didn’t consider that the 49ers wouldn’t start Smith as QB all season. Even with those miscalculations, I was only off by half a game on the final result.
It will be very interesting to look at the NFC West prior to the beginning of next year’s regular-season. With the Cardinals replacing their coach, I’m looking for a lot of changes with that team. The Rams should further solidify and I look for them to play their division even tougher than they did this year. The Seattle/ San Fran rivalry should continue to fuel fan bases in both regions. Expect gutsy, hard-hitting, take – no – prisoners games between these two franchises next year.
If you had to pick a division winner for next year right now, who would you pick?
We saw the clean hit Kam Chancellor put on Vernon Davis in week 17. We saw the flags fly giving the 49ers first and goal instead of the 4th and long they were facing. Then we saw on the replay that Chancellor’s hit on Davis was a textbook hit on a receiver that was intended to separate the ball from the receiver. So what gives? Defensive backs are complaining that it’s physically impossible to play their positions with the NFL’s well meaning but ill conceived new rules on how defensive backs are allowed to tackle receivers. The rules are not only impossible for players to obey given the unpredictable movement of the receiver, they are also impossible for a referee to correctly call. The new rules are causing players to get unwarranted fines, teams to get unwarranted penalties, and have changed the outcomes of a few games.
Another drawback of the new rule is defensive backs are afraid to tackle anyone high for fear of inadvertent helmet contact. The predictable result is they are now tackling around the knees of receivers and, as the 49ers Mario Manningham unfortunately found out, that can result in a blown out knee and a year out of the league while rehabbing the repaired but never to be the same joint. Aren’t we just trading concussions for destroyed knees?
So, what’s the answer? Players can go broke hitting high, and receivers can have their careers cut short by low tackles around the knees. Lacking a change in the laws of physics or a really high tech concussion-proof helmet, there’s one easy thing that can be done. How about using the red flag replay for those calls? When both the players and the refs can’t get a fair shake with a rule, it’s time to either change the rules again or use playbacks to fairly enforce the rules. It doesn’t make it any easier for the defensive back to avoid an inadvertent rule violation, but maybe when the receiver suddenly ducks his head replay will show it’s not the D-back’s fault; and at the very least replay can show when an unfairly flagged hit is a good legal hit. Sure it could open up a bag of worms as replay officials try to interpret a defender’s intent or a receiver’s reflexive “duck and cover” move, but it’s worth a try.
If something isn’t done about this issue football will continue to lose credibility as a contact sport. Now….what the hell is this garbage about eliminating the kickoff! DON’T GET ME STARTED!!!
Week 5 takes us on the road to Carolina, where the Seahawks hope their play on the road vastly improves before the season starts to slip away in what is shaping up to be a very competitive NFC West. Here are 5 things to watch for as keys to the Seahawks walking out of Bank of America Stadium with a big road win.
1) Spies Like Us
- As you can imagine, the Seattle Seahawks face a unique weapon in Cam Newton. He set all kinds of records as a rookie, and while is off to a un-Cam like start to 2012, can still take over a game if the defense isn’t ready. Look for the Seahawks to try and bottle in his rushing efforts (with already 33 rushes, is the teams 2nd leading rusher) by implementing a “Spy” or “Rover” to hem in the Panthers use of the spread offense and Newton’s elusive abilities. You may find that one Kam may make the other’s day quite long, as I suspect Kam Chancellor may be up for a bulk of this duty. The sure tackling force known as “Bam Bam” may keep the other Cam thinking twice about tucking the ball away and taking off, fearful of being the victim of one of Chancellors signature bone-jarring hits.
2) Skittle Reign
- The Panthers Defense is atrocious. And with the announcement that two of its best players, John Beason and Chris Gamble will miss this contest, it’s only going to get worse. While Week 1 looked promising, only yielding 16 points to the Buccaneers in defeat, they have given up 27, 36, and 30 points, respectively, since. Teams are averaging 135 yards per game on the ground against this group. Don’t think it will stop against the top rusher in the NFL. Look for Marshawn Lynch to go Beast Mode on the Panthers defense. And when he needs a blow, don’t forget about the very capable and emerging Robert Turbin. Throw in Leon Washington as the change of pace back, and I wouldn’t be surprised to watch the Seahawks rush 40+ times in this matchup.
3) 2005: A Blueprint on Shutting Down Steve Smith
- I’ll never forget the 2005 NFC Championship game between these two clubs. Carolina came into the Clink thinking it would walk all over the ‘Hawks and proceeded to get stomped. While both teams find that their entire rosters have changed, there is still one WR on the Panthers who should remember it well. Steve Smith. The Seahawks completely shut this dynamic weapon down that day, and I don’t think it would hurt to pull out the old footage and take a look at the schemes, and coverages used to do so. While Carolina has a decent #2 receiver in Brandon LaFell, they would be hard pressed to come out of this with a win if Mr. Smith is taken completely out of the matchup. Easier said than done, of course. But hey, it’s been done before.
4) 1A and 1B: Stewart and Williams
- I’m not a big fan of Jonathan Stewart. First he spurned my beloved Huskies to go play for the out-of-state rival Ducks where he went on to have a stellar career. And when all was forgiven, I draft him onto my fantasy team and he goes and lands on the inactive list every other week. Frustrating. But that doesn’t change the fact he, and his running mate DeAngelo Williams are a dangerous 1-2 punch. Add in Cam Newton and you have a 3 headed Hydra monster in the Panthers rushing attack. Thankfully the Seahawks have the 2nd best run defense in the NFL (allowing 62.8 yards per game) because every last fiber of its beef and brawn are going to be needed to bottle a very potent, albeit dormant, Carolina ground attack. Look for the very stout defensive front for the Seahawks to keep all 3 of them stifled in their efforts, and force Cam Newton to beat them with the pass while keeping him in the pocket. (See Key #1)
5) Questions and Answers
- Some would agree that this HAS to be Russell Wilson’s last audition for the role of Seahawks starting QB. There is no doubt this young man is talented as all get up, and his ceiling is atmospheric but there has to be a realization from the GM down that if it’s not his time to shine, it’s not his time to shine. The Seahawks have a playoff caliber defense and the league’s best rushing attack yet are 0-2 in division play, and are another road loss away from being sub-.500. Some project the blame to the wide receivers inability to get open or the offensive line’s inability to create a sustainable pocket, which could very well be contributing to what is now the league’s worst passing attack. The fact still remains that Wilson has at times shown his lack of downfield vision in locating the open receiver as well as a feel for the pocket, sometimes running INTO a sack rather than away from one. The question has been asked, is Russell Wilson ready to be a starting quarterback in this league? The answer should, and could be answered Sunday. Stay tuned.
I had a tough time deciding on a way to start this article. My first thought was tease the headline about it being the “one ref call that decided the game,” and then to spend the first 4-5 paragraphs talking about the phantom Pass Interference call that gave the Packers their only touchdown.
My second thought was to run through the litany of time the same thing has happened against the Seahawks, and how this is the first time that one of these calls has ever decided a game in the Seahawks favor. I mean, you only have to go back 1 year to the Cleveland game when a phantom block in the back call cost the Seahawks the win.
Ultimately though, this play doesn’t need that extra noise. It comes down to 2 things: Did Golden Tate make a great 1 handed catch in traffic? and can anyone honestly say he didn’t?
I can say, I’ve seen every view, every angle, and all slowed down to super slow-mo speed. I’ve also seen literally (and I actually mean literally, not figuratively) 100′s of still shots of the play, from every photographer that was at the game. There isn’t a single view in which you can see whether or not Tate made that 1 handed catch with his left hand.
There is only one person on Earth who was in a position to see what happened there, and that was the line judge, the one who signaled that it was a touchdown. The back judge couldn’t see it, he was looking through the backs of the players. No, there was only one person anywhere who had the right vantage point to see if Tate made the catch, and he signaled that it was a TD.
Now, for the record, I don’t believe he did. I think the Seahawks were given a gift here, but that’s just my opinion. As I said above, there isn’t any camera angle that definitely says one way or the other.
And that is the problem.
Ultimately we don’t know, but this isn’t the cut-and-dry obvious call that we’re being told it is.
There’s a reason why ESPN is refusing to show all the camera angles. There are ones that clearly show Tate getting his hand in there, making the refs ruling of a 1-handed catch possible. The reason, because controversy sells. Their TV ratings were up 20% today. Their website probably had over a million extra hits. They are playing up the “Packers got robbed” angle because it’s good for their bottom line.
And the sad thing is that so many sports fans are eating it up.
I also think that it is stupid that the entire sports world is focussing on this 1 play. Even if you believe that this one all was horribly wrong, was it any more wrong that the Kam Chancellor PI call? Or any of the six (SIX!) absolutely egregious holds that weren’t called on the Packers on their TD drive? Or any other of the 20 or so other absolutely horrible calls the refs made?
Would we still be focussing on that play had it happened the first time the Seahawks got down there and there was still 2+ minutes left on the clock? I honestly don’t think it would be the focal point that it has become. At that point in the game, the Packers would have gotten the ball back and had a chance to re-take the lead, but had the Seahawks stopped them the outcome would have been the same.
That one call isn’t any more important to the outcome of the game as any other call. It’s the focal point only because it was a last play of the game, and because ESPN is selling the controversy.
Well, It’s time for use to be better than that, and to be smarter than that.
There was 59 minutes and 59 seconds of very interesting football that is being ignored, and right now that ends.
This will be the final time I discuss this play. After this, if you’re looking for additional commentary on it, you’ll have to look elsewhere on the internet.
One of my biggest pet peeves in life, and there are many, is sports clichés. Most of them tend to be based on fragments of facts that may or may not be true and they are repeated over and over to the point that they merely fill space as opposed to offering any kind of insight. I am not making this point because I am on the verge of a ranting article about some of the things that sports commentator say that drive me crazy. Someday I may write that article. In fact, someday I probably will. What compels me to write this piece today is the fact I have actually found a cliché worth contemplating and investigating. You often hear about strength up the middle in every sport from football to hockey to baseball. I think the importance of strength up the middle or building from the inside out varies from sport to sport, but the more I thought about it the more I think it applies to the Seahawks this year. “Up the Middle” positions on defense, DT, MLB and S, factor on every play either by attacking the pocket or by ranging sideline to sideline and without them a defense can be worn down by bruising inside runs as well as TE seam routes. On Offense these up the middle men are the center, the quarterback, and the backfield. The 2012 Seahawks blueprint calls a power running game, efficient passing and stuffing the run on defense to make offenses one-dimensional. As such I thought I’d evaluate the Seahawks up the middle talent to see if they have the personnel for this strategy, starting with the offense.
Center- Max Unger
When Unger started all 16 games as a rookie in 2009 at right guard, reviews were mixed. It is always impressive to see a rookie come in and establish himself as a starter immediately but Unger seemed to lack strength and looked over matched in many games. Unger missed all of 2010 save one game but came back strong last year. Returned to his natural center position Unger looked beyond competent and seemed to be a totally new player. This off season the Seahawks rewarded him with a multi-year extension and clearly see him as a core player. So do I. If the Seahawks are going to roll with an undersized quarterback they will need an interior line that can keep passing lanes open. Unger can do that and is someone who the fans should be comfortable with at center for years to come.
Quarterback- Russell Wilson
Most things I’ve said about Wilson in the past have raised the ire of people around here so I’ll keep it short. Wilson is talented and athletic and seems to have rare poise for a rookie QB. He may be the “quarterback of the future” this franchise so desperately needs. He may not be. It’s too early to make a definitive judgment either way. Of all the players I will discuss in this article Wilson is the biggest question mark, through no fault of his own. Time will tell.
In today’s passing heavy NFL the lead-blocking fullback is something of a dinosaur. However, like many Seahawks fans that enjoyed Mack Strong for so many years, I continue to live in the past. I love the old-school I-Formation power runs and Robinson is one of the best at leading the way. Robinson was a Pro Bowler last year and appears to be a leader on this team despite the fact he only ran for 7 yards last year. He’s one of those players whose value is pretty difficult to quantify but I’m pretty sure Marshawn Lynch would tell you that this guy is plenty valuable. That’s not even mentioning special teams contributions. My one complaint about Robinson’s game is that the Seahawks don’t use enough trick plays involving his passing ability. Hard to blame Robinson for that though.
Running Back- Marshawn Lynch
What is there to say that hasn’t been said? Lynch is everything you want in a power back and more. When running backs are said to “punish” defenses it is always a hyperbole unless it is being said about Lynch. There is no need to gush further except to say that Lynch fits this team perfectly and there is nothing to worry about at the RB position.
The offense is pretty set up the middle, but what about the defensive unit that has been so stellar so far?
Defensive Tackle- Brandon Mebane
Mebane is the sort of player you plug in your lineup and forget about. After a sophomore season that saw him rack up 5.5 sacks it looked like Mebane was on the way up as a pass rushing tackle but that never really ended up being his niche. Instead Mebane has settled in as an all-around DT who is more of a pocket collapser than a pass rusher per se. Mebane is unlikely to put up big numbers individually but he can help other defensive lineman by wreaking havoc on the other side of the line of scrimmage both in run support and in terms of pushing the pocket. At 27, the recently re-signed Mebane has a lot to offer the Seahawks over the next few years.
Defensive Tackle- Alan Branch
Impending free agent Alan Branch is possibly the most underrated player on the Seahawks defense. Branch is a dominant run-stuffer and if the Seahawks fail to resign him this off season they may see their success against the run suffer into the future. Branch registered 3 sacks last year but that’s not his job. The 6-6 324 pound defensive tackle is built to stop the run and there are very few people who can do it as well as him. At 27 he has good years ahead if the Seahawks should choose to resign him.
Middle Linebacker- Bobby Wagner
The 2012 second round pick out of Utah State has looked the part of a starting MLB in the NFL so far. He isn’t huge but he is fast and hasn’t made many rookie mistakes just yet. Much like Russell Wilson he has not played enough for us to have a complete read on him but I’m inclined to believe the kid can play until proven otherwise. The last time the Seahawks drafted a 2nd round MLB who started right away that seemed to go alright….Linebacker is a position where rookies tend to be able to contribute and we are seeing that from Wagner so far.
Strong Safety- Kam Chancellor
Full disclosure: Kam Chancellor is my favourie Seahawk. The way he brutalized the Cowboys receiving core last week was a sight to behold. Chancellor combines vicious, violent and borderline illegal hits with responsible coverage that sees him get burned deep far less than one would think for a player his size whose straight line speed doesn’t compete with top receivers in this league. Chancellor went to the Pro Bowl last year and could end up becoming a perennial Pro Bowler if he keeps up his play. Even if he doesn’t he will be a rock solid contributor who is an essential partner in possibly the best safety tandem in the NFL.
Free Safety- Earl Thomas
Not only is Thomas a Pro Bowler but he might well be the best player on the Seahawks. Thomas’s expansive range covers for the mistakes of an aggressive secondary and prevents opposing offenses from beating the Seahawks deep. Thomas is also a strong tackler who throws the occasional highlight reel hit in for variety. I would be surprised to see him reach the Pro Bowl any less than five times in his career. At 23 he is already a franchise cornerstone, one of very few safeties who can say that. There is no player on this list I am more confident in my praise of than Mr. Thomas. He has started 34 games in a row and Seahawks fans should hope that he can draw that streak out to Cal Ripken-esque proportions.
Overall it appears that if strength up the middle is important to success in the NFL then the Seahawks are in good shape, not only now but into the future. The oldest player on this list is Michael Robinson at 29 and Alan Branch is the only one with a contract expiring soon. As such, it appears that the literal core of the Seahawks is both stable and promising. Unfortunately there are premium positions that are ignored by this analysis: OT, DE, CB (to be fair there are very few complaints here) and WR, but for a physical run-first team it is encouraging to know that these Seahawks can enforce its will between the hash marks.
Yesterday the Seahawks announced they would be starting J.R. Sweezy at right guard over incumbent John Moffitt, their 3rd round pick in 2011. In case anyone was unclear about Pete Caroll’s ideas on competition at every position, this should clear things up. After all, this decision puts a rookie picked in the 7th round, who hasn’t played offensive line at a competitive level in his entire life, in to replace a returning starter. Any spot on this Seahawks team is open to someone who comes in and earns it. It’s a reasonable attitude to have when building a young team from the ground up and Carroll hopes it will result in him uncovering some hidden gems the way he has with players like Kam Chancellor or Doug Baldwin. Even with that in mind, how exactly does a man playing defensive tackle for North Carolina State only months ago wind up starting at guard for our Seattle Seahawks?
Apparently it began with Tom Cable himself journeying to North Carolina State to scout Sweezy and see if he was worth converting to offensive line. Considering the amount of college players actually playing the guard position it seems odd that they would put so much time into examining conversion candidates. However, with Cable’s zone-blocking scheme he looks for players that have a different skillset than traditional offensive lineman. The Seahawks generally look for linemen who are quick and agile, even at the expense of some bulk. With a specific and rare athletic profile in mind, it is not altogether surprising Pete Carroll has to explore unconventional means to find the players he needs for his offensive line. At this point it is fairly clear that Carroll is willing think outside the box. In his tenure he has acquired players from the CFL (Browner) and players years removed from the NFL (T.O, Mike Williams) as well as converted players to positions he felt suited them better (Red Bryant, J.R. Sweezy).
Now that we’ve established why Pete Carroll would be willing to look at someone who had never played offensive line, let’s examine the athletic tools Sweezy has at his disposal that makes him so intriguing. A good way to do this is to compare his Combine numbers to the man he’s replacing, John Moffit, who put up numbers more typical of an NFL guard. The comparison is in the table below:
40 yard dash
3 Cone Drill
20 yard shuffle
Although there is more to offensive line play than straight line speed and athleticism, Sweezy does beat Moffit handily across the board in these areas. Moffitt did complete more reps on the bench press but this isn’t at all surprising considering he has 20+ pounds on Sweezy. This comparison isn’t meant to call out Moffitt, who definitely can play guard at the NFL level, but rather to highlight Sweezy’s potential. Sweezy is not without fault physically, his raw strength is below average for the position and he is a bit undersized at 6-5 and a hair under 300 pounds. Luckily for Sweezy, his only true weaknesses are strength, size and experience and all three of those can be worked on over time. What you can’t do is teach a man that size the explosion it takes to jump like a wide receiver and run like a tight end (Sweezy was clocked as low as 4.84 at his Pro Day).
With J.R. Sweezy I think the Seahawks front office knew that they were getting a high-upside player who was potentially going to be a steal. What I doubt they knew is that Sweezy was going to work like a madman at his craft and pick up the offense quickly enough to be ready to start at the NFL level by Week 1. If anyone other than J.R. himself says they knew that I am fully prepared to call them a liar. When he was drafted, Sweezy had the look of an intriguing developmental prospect but he has arrived faster than anyone could have reasonably anticipated. Every training camp there is a story of someone overcoming odds to make the team or the starting lineup and this year Sweezy has to be that story. I understand the Russell Wilson’s ascension to the starting quarterback role is exceptionally important and impressive but in terms of sheer improbability Sweezy has to take the cake. I know that there is a lot to watch this coming Sunday but if you get the chance be sure to take a second to observe your right guard because he’s one heck of a story.
When Max Unger signed his big contract extension, I penned this article looking at which player might be the next one to get a contract extension from the Seahawks. I suggested it was likely to be Alan Branch, since he was a ket contributor and his contract expires after this year.
Almost immediately after publishing that, I hear from a bunch of people that Kam Chancellor should have been on my list of possibilities, even though he’s got 2 years left on his rookie deal. Then today, there was this report from Pro Football Weekly, which says that they also heard that the Seahawks and Chancellor could soon be working on a deal.
The idea makes sense. As a 5th round pick, Chancellor is not getting paid up to his level of production. Chancellor was a pro-bowler last year and is a vocal leader on the defense.
We currently sit at a point of the year where the Seahawks have not played a single snap, not even a preseason snap, and yet fans are willing to make broad assumptions about how this year might go. This is reasonable for the most part as an analysis of roster construction and schedule will give some insightful clues as to where our beloved Seahawks will find themselves at the end of the year. There are a lot of things that can be gleaned from examining how these Seahawks look on paper. However, as the incredibly annoying but unfortunately true cliché goes, “the game isn’t played on paper”. In this article I will examine the validity of five assumptions that we Seahawks fans (I’m just as guilty as you) are making going into this season. Very scientifically I will be rendering my verdict as to whether these assumptions fall under the categories of Safe, Likely, Iffy or Wrong.
1. Marshawn Lynch will continue to be a beast:
Marshawn Lynch is an absolute pleasure to watch. The utter violence of his running style makes me feel as if children under 18 shouldn’t be allowed to see his carries. At the same time I wouldn’t want anyone to be excluded from enjoying his brutal grace. Marshawn was excellent last year behind an iffy (the limits of my vocabulary show themselves in a hurry) offensive line with 1204 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. While his running style seems conducive to injury, he has been fairly durable throughout his career, never playing in less than 13 games in a year. For all the punishment he seems to take and all the carries he’s had, he is only 26. That being said running backs can break down at a moment’s notice.
2. The Seahawks secondary is awesome:
When you look at the Seahawks projected starting secondary awesome is a word that comes to mind along with epic, picktastic and bonecrushing (ok so that only applies to Kam Chancellor but I think it’s fair to say he crushes enough bones for the entire quartet). The foursome of Browner, Chancellor, Sherman and Thomas are 28, 24, 24 and 23 so age related regression is hardly a concern. If anything this group is on the up and up as they hone their skills as they approach their collective prime. The picture is not entirely rosy as Browner can get himself in penalty trouble and both him and Chancellor lack elite foot speed and can be exposed in coverage from time to time. That being said Earl Thomas has Mike Trout-esque range and can often cover for the errors of his comrades. I’m also fairly sure that Walter Thurmond, Marcus Trufant or someone else on the roster can be a competent 3rd CB. Overall there isn’t a lot not to like here but Pete Caroll’s preference for big DB’s could get them burned by speedy receivers from time to time.
3. Chris Clemons will once again lead the pass rush with exactly 11.0 sacks:
I did not have especially high hopes for Chris Clemons when he was first acquired. Even when he excelled in 2010 I braced myself for a sizable regression last year but that regression never came. I think at this point we are treating Chris Clemons as a proven commodity ace pass rusher. Unless Bruce Irvin is an instant star (I’m not betting my life savings on it) the Seahawks absolutely need this to be the case. Unfortunately there are multiple causes for concern the foremost being age and size. Clemons turns 31 this year. While this isn’t ancient it is about the time when pass rushers can fall off the side of the Earth. We got a great season from Patrick Kerney at this age but none after that. Also the fact Clemons is undersized makes me worry about his durability even though that potential issue has not cropped up during his time with the Seahawks. Overall I think that Clemons has too many things working against him (not even mentioning a defensive line that lacks the pass-rushing threats to prevent him from being doubled) to replicate his previous production.
Verdict: IFFY (I considered Wrong but I can’t muster that level of pessimism before the season even starts)
4. Nothing much should be expected of Zach Miller at this point:
After an admittedly disappointing season I feel like fan confidence in Miller is fairly low. Seahawks fans do not seem to have a great deal of optimism regarding Miller despite the fact he is a very talented player. The receiving numbers were not there last year and given what the Seahawks are paying him the results really should be there. I’m not really in the business of making excuses for Miller’s 2011 but I do think there is reason to expect a bounce back this year. Firstly he has youth on his side. Miller turns 27 this year and, without any debilitating injuries to speak of, there is no reason he should be physically diminished. Also between 2008 and 2010 Miller had no less than 685 yards in a season proving a consistent ability to produce despite playing with quarterbacks ranging from questionable to historically awful. Along with youth and history Miller will also be playing with a new quarterback this year in all likelihood. Despite the fact a great deal of his drop in production was a result of increased blocking responsibilities (which he will probably face this year as well) it was also clear that he didn’t really mesh with Tavaris Jackson. This year he will have the luxury of a new quarterback (whether it is Wilson or Flynn) and a chance to build chemistry from scratch. Miller has the potential to be an excellent weapon and hopefully his new quarterback (am I so out of line in dismissing Jackson’s chances of starting?) recognizes that. He could well be in for a big rebound. I don’t understand the lack of optimism.
5. Multiple quarterbacks will start for the Seahawks this year.
Given the lack of clarity in the quarterback situation at the moment this seems like a safe bet. People seem to think it will be Flynn and then ultimately Wilson either after the Seahawks fall out of contention or he proves himself. I wouldn’t put money on this but I have this feeling that Flynn might actually be good. Maybe even good enough to hold off a rookie 3rd round pick who is under 6 feet tall and Tavaris Jackson (is any description really required?). Call it a hunch but I think there is more of a chance that Flynn starts for the Seahawks all year than most seem to think. He is also the man getting paid. People say they haven’t invested in him fully but alternatively he makes a mighty expensive backup. Also there probably isn’t that much harm in sitting Wilson for another year. If you are a gambling man count on multiple QB’s for the Seahawks this year, due to the injury risk alone, but don’t be surprised if Flynn takes a hold of this job.
Verdict: LIKELY (I wish I was bold enough to say iffy which in and of itself isn’t exactly the boldest word).
Essentially what I’ve done here is warn you about making assumptions about the 2012 Seahawks at this point in the season and then made some assumptions of my own. If I’m a hypocrite so be it. Time will tell if my assumptions are any better than anyone else’s.
Tags: brandon browner, Chris Clemons, Earl Thomas, featured, football, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, matt flynn, nfl, Previews, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Tavaris Jackson, Zach Miller
As we approach the unofficial start to the 2012 NFL season I’d like to give our 12th Man a chance to evaluate the 8 home games that are staring us in the face, and give their thoughts on which one they look forward to the most. Your reasoning can be from a hatred that is rooted so deep in your being that the thought is cause for a pause to breathe before you go Bam Bam on someone, or because a buddy is coming up to visit, and he’s from Dallas (input throat clearing noise here Jason Beverly). Whatever the reason, it’s a good one 12th. As the cause for the biggest home field advantage in the NFL, I think it’s relevant, don’t you? Let’s examine….
Week 2 – Dallas Cowboys
- As I hinted earlier, a good friend of my 12th Man crew is coming up from Dallas for this one. He’d been a very gracious host in our past visits to the Big D, so now it’s our turn. While he’ll definitely enjoy a glutton of good times while visiting the Emerald City, entering the CLink will not be one of the most comfortable of settings. I just can see J-Bev in his Tony Romo jersey, confident in victory until flashes of a muffed snap, and Big Play Babs stream before his eyes as Earl Thomas takes a pick Six to the Thunderdome late in the 4th. Hey, at least the beers are on us Bev. Sorry buddy.
Week 3 – Green Bay Packers
- Not really sure there’s enough ink for all of the print this match-up is going to receive. Seattle and Green Bay have shared quite a bit of history over the past 10-15 years. Holmgren, Hasselbeck, “We’re gonna score”, Ahman Green, and on, and on…To this writer though, the biggest story bathing in this contest is Aaron Rodgers and the simple fact that he’s the best QB in the NFL and has never played here. The guy is a cool breeze in a desert. A swimming hole in the middle of the Skykomish River. Simply put, he doesn’t rattle. Can the 12th Man answer what may be the biggest challenge they’ll see since the opening of the CLink? Warm tea and honey the night before my faithful. I trust that when asked, Aaron Rodgers will proclaim, “It was like being in an earthquake, a riot, and an Alice in Chains concert at the same time”. The nation will be watching, I know you all will bring it. BRING IT!!!
Week 6 – New England Patriots
- Let’s start with 2 words here 12th. Tom Brady. Without sounding like the guy who just got done beating a majestic animal such as a horse is, think about it. Brady and Co. are on the backside of a nice ride. Like approaching the chair after a good run on Skyline at Stevens. They can keep taking the chair back up, but hey man, it’s cold up there, and if your knees aren’t so good, maybe Daisy is more appropriate? While this is a horrifically dangerous presumption on my part, I think it’s worth noting. The dying days of summer are upon this team. I say let the young Seattle defense drive a Kam Chancellor size imposition on this fragile quilt, hanging by a very slim Brady thread. Besides, watching Bellichick walk off the field with his anger-face on is just so pleasing. Like a warm Sopapilla from The New Mexicans in Everett, drizzled in honey. (Best food in the North End 12th Man. Check em’ out.)
Week 9 – Minnesota Vikings
- Well, by now we’re all hoping that our boys are on a nice tear here. The Vikings at home should be a facility in domination. But hey, this is the NFL. If AP is healthy, and Christian Ponder….oh hell. There’s no point. I’m sure my season ticket holding brothers are all bartering with this date. It’s bring your girlfriend, or kids, or client week! I hope I’m not sounding too presumptuous here, it’s just that I know our defense is going to abuse, reuse, and recycle this roster. If you want to wear purple in Washington, you better bring some Gold fool. (GO DAWGS!)
Week 10 – New York Jets
- Remember my anger face reference earlier? Well, there’s no one more I want to see walk off the field at the Clink redder in the face than Rex Ryan. I want to see him slam the horn he’s been tooting on for the past 3 years at midfield as Marshawn bathes in Skittles. The Jets are a force 12th. No doubt about it. However, this writer is predicting that the fans and media in NYC spurn Mark Sanchez by Week 10, and the coaching staff follows. Which means Tim Tebow is at the helm for his trip to Decibel Domination. Sure, he played against LSU in college, and he’ll say that he’s been in hostile environments….blah, blah, blah. Whatever. He’s a great guy, and his motives can never be questioned. But his inability to not get past his first read as K.J. Wright eats him alive is as real as the double negative I just threw at you. Believe it 12th.
Week 13 – Arizona Cardinals
- Now begins the home stretch. The last 3 home games are against our division rivals. First up is the Cards. Since I can remember the ‘Hawks-Cards have taken home games from each other. While we all would love a 2-0 sorting of this heated rivalry, a home win is crucial. We start the season in Glendale, so there’s quite the season sandwich between meetings. Obviously, health will be the major story here. The Cards get a fresh start against our Rottweiler of a Defense in Week 1. So fresh that you could almost echo Will Ferrell’s reference to being the ’Fabreeze Brothers’ in “The Other Guys”. What will the story tell in Week 13? I can pretty much guarantee one thing 12th….Larry Fitzgerald HATES playing in Seattle as much as he hates NOT playing in Seattle. He’s like a cold, but he’s catching it….?? If that makes sense. Anyways, if Kolb doesn’t get it together, and AZ’s entire roster can’t once again stay healthy, then it’s a non-issue. Someone call Nuprecon! It’s demo time.
Week 15 – San Francisco 49ers
- Ok 12th. This isn’t going to be pretty. See, what the whole NFL family doesn’t understand is that this is going to grow into the greatest, yet most violent, rivalry in it’s recent history. Because I’m a writer covering the Seahawks, it seems mundane to consider this. But mark my words, this game could, in 2 years, be the NFC Championship Game. I had to put my bib on just to write this capsule. This is a fist fight in all manners of the term. Just ask my 12th crew who went to San Fran to watch a game. Ugly. Now, since we have a higher manner of domination, we’ll let the boys on the field do the talking, but if you feel yelling “Merry Christmas” as you depart a witnessing of sheer fortitude, than be my guest. I’ll bring the bells. And Jingle all the Way.
Week 16 – St. Louis Rams
- One thing I am going to guarantee 12th. By season’s end the proverbial NFL ‘voice’ will all come together and share this lightning rod of a thought….”The NFC West is going to be one of the toughest divisions in this league for years…” And they won’t be wrong. Like all things in life, we experience peaks, and valleys. Well, if this is a peak, than it’s of Everest proportions. Players like L-Fitz, and Patrick Willis. Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, and Steven Jackson. What once was a pass-skelly division has turned into a smash-mouth head on collision of idealism. Competition, effort, precision. Think about the coaching that now exists in this division. Wow. Unlike any other competitive sport, Football and it’s leaders show us what it means to collectively understand and embrace an ideal. The NFC West is becoming a bruising brute. Defense, and pounding the ball. Efficiency at the Quarterback position. Heart Attacks at Wide Receiver (I’m drafting Sid Rice early 12th. He’s angry…) All this falls to my position that the last game of the season is once again the Rams. Don’t think Jeff Fischer won’t have these guys in the hunt. Sam Bradford is going to bring his slo-mo vision to a house he’s visited before. The Rams and Seahawks are commonly built in most facets of the game, except one. And they know it, and they hate us for it. What you ask? Well….
It’s you. Every person that reads this with the Seahawks in their heart understands. These 8 games are home games, yes. But aren’t they more than that? Maybe it’s an affirmation to what we know. The 12th Man is the greatest home-field advantage in professional football. But you know that. I emphatically plead my brothers and sisters of the Blue to embrace this one truth. This football team is going to bring us to the brink of championships….maybe even parades. For 8 days over the next 5 months I challenge each and every one of you to adopt and practice this one truth….
YOU ARE THE GREATEST AND MOST ENDEARED FAN BASE IN THE NFL. YOU HAVE A FLAG THAT FLIES IN YOUR HONOR. AS THIS TEAM IS FOR YOU, BE FOR THEM. AS I AM FOR YOU, BE FOR ME. I AM 12. I STAND BEHIND THE 11 BEFORE ME. I AM 12.