Seahawks center Max Unger and defensive end Red Bryant have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, according to ESPN.com’s injury report for Friday.
Both have been dealing with concussion-like symptoms and neither practiced this week. Coach Pete Carroll spoke on Friday morning about the two and was not optimistic about either player, via mynorthwest.com:
“They have not had the opportunity to get back on the field,” Carroll said. “They go through this process and the doctors have not cleared them to this point. We’ll see what happens…But those guys, when they haven’t practiced for a couple of days, that starts to mean like it might be harder to expect them to play.”
The loss of Unger hurts a depleted offensive line that is still without Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini.
Bryant’s injury will keep him off a defensive line that will be working against the NFL’s worst run offense. The Falcons are averaging just 64.4 rushing yards per game.
Unger and Bryant were not the only two listed as out for Sunday’s game. According to ESPN’s injury report, the two are joined by DT Jordan Hill (biceps) and RB Derrick Coleman (hamstring).
Giacomini (knee) is listed as doubtful while safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring) is listed as questionable.
Kam Chancellor (ankle) and Marshawn Lynch (knee) are both listed as probable.
The injuries are continuing to pile up for the Seahawks.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was seen on crutches and a protective boot to immobilize the sprained ankle he suffered on Sunday against the Colts, according to Terry Blount at ESPN.com.
Blount noted that head coach Pete Carroll believes Wagner will be a game-day decision:
“Bobby will see if he can make it back by game day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “But it will go all the way to Sunday.”
Wagner is second on the team with 34 total tackles. If he can’t play on Sunday, K.J. Wright would move from the weak-side to the middle linebacker position. Malcolm Smith would replace Wright and Bruce Irvin would replace Smith on the strong side, according to Clare Farnsworth at Seahawks.com.
There was also good news that came out of Wednesday’s practice for the Hawks.
Pro Bowl center Max Unger was a full participant in practice and will play on Sunday against the Titans after missing the last two games with a triceps injury.
His return will boost an offensive line that was without four starters last week against the Colts.
Tight end Zach Miller, still nursing a sore hamstring, did not practice on Wednesday but will be a game-day decision, according to Blount.
Offensive linemen Max Unger and Breno Giacomini are “doubtful” to play in tomorrow’s contest against the Houston Texans.
The two join nine other Seahawks on Seattle’s official injury report, though six of those nine are listed as “probable”.
Unger, who has been dealing with an arm injury, was limited in Friday’s practice while Giacomini’s knee injury kept him from participating at all, according to Clare Farnsworth at Seahawks.com.
Their absence on Sunday, and the absence of Russell Okung, will mean that Seattle will be without three of their original five starting lineman.
The Seattle Times noted that Michael Bowie will likely play right tackle for Giacomini while Lemuel Jeanpierre will handle the snaps at center for Unger.
Bowie is listed at 6-foot-4 and 332 pounds. He is in his rookie season after playing two seasons at Oklahoma State University. Jeanpierre is 6-foot-3 and 301 pounds. This is his third year with the Seahawks, where he has played in 34 games but started just five.
The Texans will already be an imposing matchup, but the Seahawks’ injuries may play a large factor in the game.
Here is a list of the other injuries Seattle placed on their end-of-the-week status report on Friday, according to the same article by Farnsworth.
DT Jordan Hill (biceps)
SS Jeron Johnson (hamstring)
RB Spencer Ware (ankle)
OT Breno Giacomini (knee)
C Max Unger (arm)
DL Michael Bennett (groin)
CB Brandon Browner (hamstring)
DE Red Bryant (back)
WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle)
LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring)
OG J.R. Sweezy (back)
Most of the players listed as “probable” are expected to play tomorrow. Seattle would really like to see J.R. Sweezy help out the offensive line, which has been spread thin by injuries.
That offensive line will have to be on its toes to defend the like of J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing, whom head coach Pete Carroll knows from when they were a coach-player tandem at USC.
Kickoff is at 10:05 a.m. PDT.
Max Unger is good. If you don’t agree, you’re either a 49ers fan or you don’t know how to evaluate the center position. He was voted as an all-pro, which means that the league thinks he was the best C in football in 2012. Like I said, Max Unger is good.
As Seahawks fans, we should what good center play is. After all, Unger is just the latest in what has been a extremely solid line of centers throughout the franchise’s history.
As I’ve been researching the team’s history for the the “Greatest Seahawks of All Time” draft game that we’re doing, I’ve been surprised at the continuity that the Seahawks have had in terms of great play at center. Just for fun, lets take a look at the team’s history at the position:
After a year of juggling oft-inured players as the position, the Seahawks drafted John Yarno in 1977 and handed him the starting job a year later. Yarno was small by today’s standards, but light on his feet and was very adept as “pulling” and becoming a lead blocker on runs to the outside, as well as an adept pass blocker.
Yarno handed the reigns to the position to Blair Bush in 1983. Bush was more of a road grader, and more fitting for of the “ground chuck” offense that coach Chuck Knox wanted to run. The Seahawks got Bush for 5 years in his prime. He played 6 more years of his 16 year career after leaving the Seahawks.
After Bush there was a lull in the talent level at the position for a few year with Grant Feasel and Ray Donaldson holding down the spot. Ken Behring and Tim Flores were clueless about offensive talent, so it doesn’t surprise me much that they ruined the string of great centers.
Then Paul Allen bought the team, and the position returned to it’s previous level of quality. There was a 1 year rental of Jim Sweeney, who was good but old, and a bit of a mercenary.
After that came Kevin Mawae. He’s not in the Hall of Fame yet, but I expect he will be in a couple years. Unfortunately, he’ll go in as a Jet, since he spent most of his career in New York. Had Mawae stayed in Seattle, he’d likely be remembered with the same fondness as other Seahawks greats.
After 2 years of with the very talented but old and injured Kevin Glover at the spot, Mike Holmgren decided to sign Robbie Tobeck to hold down the position. He stabilized the offensive line and was a key cog that helped get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005.
Tobeck retired after that, and gave way to Chris Spencer. Spencer was a bit of a disappointment, but he did manage to keep his starting spot across 3 different head coaches. That has to mean something, though I fear it says more about the lack of other alternatives than about him. Spencer was drafted by Tim Ruskell, which is a fact that I’ll include without additional commentary.
Finally, Spencer was removed to make way for Unger, who hopefully will be the one snapping the ball to Russell Wilson for the next decade. I’ve already said he’s good. There’s no need to repeat it now.
From Yarno, to Bush, to Mawae, to Tobeck, and now Unger, the Seahawks have a great history of quality play at the center position. Perhaps its time for us as fans to recognize the greatness that we’ve witnessed at the position over the years.
At a time of year when there isn’t a lot of tangible news regarding the Seahawks, my mind often turns to the hypothetical. I have a bit of a pessimistic streak so when I speak about hypothetical situations what I’m usually getting at is apocalyptic level disasters. The Seahawks are clearly a good team and I have faith in the talent on the roster and in the front office. There is also enough depth on this team that it is hard to imagine any major disasters befalling the Seahawks in 2014. However, in a salary cap league it is impossible to be two deep at every position so today I thought I would look at the most indispensible players on the Seahawks roster.
There are two factors that come into play here. The first is the talent of the player in question and the second is the quality of their replacement. There are some very talented players that have been left out of my top 3 list below, such as Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin, through no fault of their own, because the Seahawks have strong depth at that particular position. Without further adieu, here are the players, in my humble opinion, who Seattle can least afford to lose in 2013:
1. Earl Thomas
Russell Wilson may be a demigod but it is my belief that an injury to Earl Thomas would be a more crushing blow to this team. Having just turned 24 Thomas is already a two-time Pro Bowl safety who is immensely important to this defense. Without Thomas patrolling center field Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner would be far less free to be aggressive at the line as both rely on Thomas for help over the top. The Seahawks can only have success with their bigger and slower corners due to Thomas’s ability to prevent plays over the top. Earl Thomas is essential to preventing big plays and plays the quietest, most essential role in the Legion of Boom which allows the other three members to be physical and do what they do best. Kam Chancellor does not have even close to the kind of range that Thomas does and spends a great deal of time near the line of scrimmage, putting even more pressure on the free safety. Richard Sherman may get the headlines but I think more of his success than he’d be willing to admit is predicated on the presence of Thomas.
In addition to Thomas’s vital important to the defense, he is also invaluable because he has no reliable backup. Chris Maragos is the only other free safety on the roster. Maragos has appeared exclusively on special teams and is utterly unproven as an NFL safety. Like Thomas he is fairly small (5-11 200lbs) but he doesn’t come close to Earl Thomas’s speed and range, mainly because virtually no safeties do. Perhaps he has some hidden talent but as a 26 year old with no professional experience at his position, and who went undrafted, my hopes are not high. The only positive is that he has been around the system for a couple of years but I doubt that is enough to prevent him from being the biggest drop off from the starter of any 2nd string player on the team.
2. Russell Wilson
Obviously the franchise quarterback was going to make an appearance on this list. Everyone is familiar with Wilson’s fantastic rookie year and his potential for growth as he only got better as 2012 went on. Wilson was a top 10 quarterback in 2012 and looked even better down the stretch. His running ability makes the offense more flexible and his accuracy makes it more efficient. Not only that but, now he has Percy Harvin to throw to. There is plenty more praise I could heap onto Wilson but at a certain point that gets repetitive. The man is good.
The only reason Wilson appears at number two on this list is the because he has a very competent backup this year. Earlier in the off-season I was very concerned about the prospect of Brady Quinn as the backup to Wilson but I am very pleased that the Seahawks went out and signed Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson is a below average starting quarterback, but a great backup. Pete Carroll knows he can win with Jackson, and this Seahawks could probably still be a wildcard threat with Tarvaris at the helm. The supporting cast on offense and the defense are both great and the reins of the offense could be turned over to Marshawn Lynch with Jackson as the role player quarterback. I think of the Seahawks as a Super Bowl contender and that wouldn’t be possible without Wilson but this team has the talent to be functional and above average with Jackson. It should be recalled that Jackson was 7-7 with a far worse squad in 2011 with a not awful passer rating of 79.2 and almost decent 6.9 yards per attempt.
3. Max Unger
After stumbling out of the gate slightly as a rookie, Unger has established himself as top center in the NFL. In 2012 Unger was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro and seems to be one of those players who makes those around him better. While the offensive line isn’t necessarily the strength of this team it would be hard to imagine how it would perform without him. Unger isn’t just one of those glue guys, he’s one of those glue guys who is actually good. He has started 31 of the last 32 games for the Seahawks and has gotten the better of his opponents in almost all of those games.
Not only is Unger a fantastic player, but he has a backup who isn’t really anything special. Lemeul Jeanpierre has mainly stuck with the Seahawks due to his versatility as opposed to some kind of latent talent ready to bloom. The guard/center did get some playing time in 2011 and did not acquit himself disastrously but the downgrade is significant.
Football is a violent game where every team is likely to experience significant losses in terms of injuries. The Seahawks are no exception and though I think the front office has done a fine job of building depth on this roster the three players I’ve listed above strike me as players they simply cannot afford to lose. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the best, not looking to slight Richard Sherman here as I know he wouldn’t appreciate that, they are just the most difficult to replace in my view. With some luck from the football gods Thomas, Wilson and Unger, all who have been relatively durable in the past (except for Unger’s lost 2010), will be kept from harm. If you want to be a Super Bowl contender there is very little margin for error and these are guys that Seattle needs.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson competed eight of ten passes for 98 yards, and threw for three touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown and led all rushers with a modest 21-yards. Leon Washington added a 92-yard kickoff return to set up a score. Earl Thomas also contributed with an interception. Max Unger and Russell Okung provided solid protection. In the end, the NFC put up a record number of points in the 62-35 victory.
In fact, the NFC dominated in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams. They scored six passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and two field goals.
In the face of criticism, the players seemed to play with an appropriate mix of caution and competition. The game also included some fun all-star moments. Russell Wilson connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a touchdown pass. Earlier in the game, JJ Watt lined up as a receiver but failed to catch either of his two targets.
While the stakes were still lower than some fantasy football games, it was fun to watch. The broadcast included scenic shots from Hawaii and several on-field interviews. It was also a chance to see some of this year’s players get a bit of recognition for their hard work.
Six Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Pro Bowl this year. The big question that everyone is asking is, “Does anybody care?” Last year’s players were accused of not competing, not playing hard enough, and basically playing a boring game. It resulted in a 59 to 41 AFC victory. Earlier this season, when asked about his Prow Bowl snub, Seattle’s own Richard Sherman seemed indifferent. He stated only that he wanted to be listed on the all-pro team.
In fact, criticism of the NFL’s all star game has grown so strong that there has been speculation that Roger Goodell may cancel future Pro Bowls if this year’s game is a flop. If he did, it would be a shame for the NFL’s youngest fans, the kids, who really believe that watching their heroes in an all star game is an exciting event.
My strongest memory of the Prow Bowl was in 1995. That year, Seahawks’ running back Chris Warren broke the Prow Bowl record for yards in a game at 127. Soon after that, his own AFC teammate, Marshall Faulk (then of the Indianapolis Colts) broke Warrens record by gaining 180 yards. Yes, the same record went down twice in one game by players from the same team.
I was young that year, and knew more about NCAA football than I did about NFL football. Maybe that was why I was so excited to see a Seattle player take a record in a bowl game. Then, when Marshall Faulk topped Warren’s record, I felt like I would feel years later when Shaun Alexander lost his share of the single season TD title to LaDainian Tomlinson the next season.
On Sunday, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, and Leon Washington all have chances to put their names in the record books. All though, for Russell Wilson to get in the record books, he would have to put up impressive individual numbers. Peyton Manning owns most quarterback career marks. Perhaps playing behind his linemen Max Unger and Russell Okung will work to Wilson’s advantage.
It is true that some fans may be turned away from the Pro Bowl by the lack of hard hits, the no-blitz-allowed rule, mandatory 4-3 defense, Maddenesque scoring, and overall lack of competitiveness. There is still potential for some good performances by the best players that the NFL had to offer this season; at least the players not playing in the Super Bowl. In a way, the next two weeks are like a curtain call. The supporting cast coming out to take their bow first, and the biggest stars coming out to play one more game for the title.
In addition to the game itself, the event has always been a nice event for the city of Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii. If Seattle fans feel isolated having their team playing in the northwest, imagine how Hawaian fans feel being so far removed from the rest of the country as to not have a team.
Not only is the Pro Bowl a good chance to involve Hawaii in the world of professional football, this year, the league is reaching out across the pacific. The NFL is using the Pro Bowl weekend to help promote American football in Japan. To help strengthen the bond between American Football and Japanese American Football, the Pro Bowl squads will feature practices at Pearl Harbor, and coaching exchanges with Japanese coaches.
Believe it or not, football is actually played in Japanese high schools, colleges, and they have a semi-pro league that features a mix of Japanese and international players. Their championship is now called the X-bowl, and dates back to 1987. For the big picture of the growth of American football, building this international connection can only be seen as a positive.
While the Ichiro of football still may be a few generations away, this weekends prow bowl is dominated by American players. At the end of the day, the bloated statistics, and fanfare in Hawaii may not be as exciting as the Harbaugh brothers playing chess in between rounds of million dollar commercials. However, it is still football, and I’m going to watch it. Let’s hope that the players put on a good show, and that our Seattle Seahawks players give us something to cheer for.
Tags: afc, Chris Warren, Earl Thomas, featured, football, Leon Washington, Marhall Faulk, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, NFC, nfl, Peyton Manning, Popular, Pro Bowl, Richard Sherman, Roger Goodell, Russell Okung, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Shaun Alexander
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
The official Pro-Bowl roster came out today, and they included 5 Seahawks; 3 on offense, 1 on defense, and 1 special teams player. Congratulations to those that were selected.
On offense Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, and Russell Okung were all named to the team. Okung will start at LT, which is a much deserved honor. Okung has clearly beent he best LT in the NFL this season. Unger and Lynch will both play later in the game.
The only Seahawks defender selected was Earl Thomas. Thomas is deserving, but so are many other Seattle defenders. The fact that the league’s #1 defense in terms of points allowed only has one player headed to the game is a complete joke. At the very least, Kam Chancellor and Chris Clemons should be joining him. Richard Sherman has been the best CB in the NFL this season. His exclusion is a complete travesty.
Leon Washington makes the team as well. He will be the NFC’s kick and punt return specialist.
The Pro Bowl has been garbage for over a decade now. After last season’s unwatchable debacle, the league almost removed the game entirely. At this point, I pretty believe they should. Don’t agree? read on then:
- The 10 win Seahawks and the 2 win Chiefs have the same number of players selected. ya, that makes sense.
- the 49ers defense had 6 players selected. Seattle’s defense which is better in almost every statistical category, had just 1.
- The Vikings, who’s RB is likely to break 2000 yards this season, have 0 offensive linemen selected.
- Speaking of offensive linemen, Jeff Saturday, who’s played so poorly for most of the season that he is no longer a starter, was selected.
- Eric Berry and LaRon Landry were selected at Safety for the AFC. Both have been completely awful this season.
There’s more, but that’s clearly enough for you to get the picture. The Pro Bowl is a joke.
In all honesty this is a game that makes me nervous. The Dolphins, who at one point looked like a wildcard contender, have imploded down the stretch and now it is very clear who the better team in this game is. Not only should Seattle win but they really need to with New Orleans and Tampa Bay breathing down their necks and the 49ers showing no signs of slowing down. However, they do have a very lengthy trip to Miami and the Dolphins have shown the ability to stop the run this year and limiting Lynch is paramount to limiting the Seahawks. Perhaps it’s typical paranoia but I don’t see this being easy. Let’s take a look at some of tomorrow’s big matchups.
Matchup #1: Max Unger vs. Paul Solai
Unger is one of the most underrated, under appreciated players on the Seahawks. Although there are no gaudy numbers to point to when evaluating a center like Unger I’m sure his teammates would tell you how crucial he is to the Seahawks success on offense. On Sunday he faces one of the biggest men in the NFL. At 6-4 355 Solai does not lack for size or strength. As one might imagine he is not much of a pass rusher but that’s just not his job. Solai’s job is to clog up the middle and it’s a job he tends to do well. If the Seahawks plan to establish the run they cannot let that happen. It will fall to Unger to open up the lanes in the middle that have been essential to so many Beast Mode highlight reel runs. I tend not to bet against him.
Matchup #2: Richard Sherman vs. Brian Hartline
There really aren’t any Dolphins skill players that strike fear into the hearts of opponents but Hartline has been the most productive. Hartline has already amassed 790 yards this year with a more than respectable 14.9 yards per catch. He has exploded for a couple of big games but has struggled to find pay-dirt with only one TD this year. Despite his yards per reception average, Hartline lacks the straight line speed to be a significant deep threat. He may get some catches in this game but I don’t see him stacking up against the man that many are calling the best shutdown corner in the league. Sherman has been an absolute monster this year and I think he erases Hartline in this game to continue his string of dominance. After all he didn’t seem to have much trouble with Megatron…
Matchup # 3: K.J Wright vs. Anthony Fasano
This is not so much a crucial strategic matchup as me just wanting to see K.J Wright on the field again. Wright is a linebacker with rare athleticism and savvy who has excellent coverage skills. His range on the field is noticeable and he has a tackle factor of 1.33 meaning he makes 133% of the tackles you would expect for a player at his position. It’s comforting to think we have 4/3 of a linebacker out there swallowing up opposing running backs and tight ends. His opponent, Fasano, is not a field-stretching threat down the seam but he has been effective in the red zone with 3 touchdown catches this year and 21 TDs over the last 5 years. Not an absolute stud but definitely a man worth watching. I’m guess K.J stays vigilant out there.
I truly hope my nervousness about this game proves unjustified but I’ve also developed a fairly solid fan instinct over the years. There are no easy wins in the NFL but I’m OK with it being hard. I’d take an ugly win any day of the week, especially on the road.
Lastly for any fellow Canadians/Chris Berman-esque CFL fans in the audience: I’d like to end with a shout out to my hometown Toronto Argonauts for making the 100th Grey Cup, played tomorrow after a 9-9 season (yeah we play 18 games up here) and magical playoff run.
I don’t recall the last time I’ve missed a Monday Night Football Game of any description, especially one involving the Seahawks. I always enjoy when the Seahawks get a chance to gain some recognition from the rest of the football world because said recognition is often denied to them due to geography alone. Perhaps for this reason the Seahawks are extra motivated on Monday Nights as they have a very good record in the national showcase games at 13-8. I’d be more inclined to chalk it up to an irrelevant stat based on a small sample size, but that’s just the kind of guy I am. Tonight the Seahawks face an intimidating challenger in the Green Bay Packers but if they pull off a victory they are sure to turns some heads around the league. The matchups below could be essential if Seattle hopes to pull the upset.
Matchup #1: Max Unger vs. B.J Raji
I have to admit the State Farm commercials with B.J Raji have endeared me to the man but on Sunday he plays the role of hated rival and Max Unger will have his hands full with this 6-2 334lb monster. Raji is one of the rare nose tackles that can not only disrupt the pocket but really get after the quarterback as well. He had 3 sacks last year and an excellent 6.5 in 2011. Raji is shorter, stouter and stronger than Unger who will have to stay low or risk getting blown into the backfield. Unger is a very capable center but this matchup does concern me as Raji can be such a dominating force in the middle. Expect Unger to receive help from his guards on a lot of plays. In fact it occurs to me that this is the sort of game where it would be a nice to slide a bruiser like James Carpenter into the lineup at guard but unfortunately he is a week away at the very least. If Unger he can’t move Raji during the course of this game Lynch’s running between the tackles could be in serious jeopardy.
Matchup #2: Chris Clemons vs. Marshall Newhouse
Full disclosure: I have multiple good friends who are Packers fans. I’m sorry. These things just sort of happen. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I can say that Newhouse is much maligned in the Packer community. Having seen quite a few Packers games I can safely say that the Packers LT is nothing special and leave it at that. If Aaron Rodgers is consistently given time in the pocket he is capable of picking apart even the Seahawks excellent secondary. Stopping this from happening is where Chris Clemons comes in. Although Clemons does have a sack this year he has been fairly quiet and not the disruptive presence we have come to expect. This would be an excellent game for Clemons to get his season really started both in terms of Seattle’s need and his matchup. Add in a little help from the 12th man to give Newhouse trouble getting off the line and you have the recipe for a productive day.
Fun trivia fact about Marshall Newhouse: He was drafted with the compensation pick the Packers got for losing the incomparable Colin Cole to Seattle. I had an irrational and heartbreaking love of Colin Cole due to the fact we share a hometown and his name coming up in my research of this piece just made me sad at his disappointing stint with the Seahawks all over again. Thanks a lot Marshall.
Matchup #3: Bobby Wagner vs. Cedric Benson.
The RB vs. MLB matchup is not a direct matchup in the sense that the players do not line up across from one another but a good MLB will be involved somehow on most running plays. Wagner has the speed to epitomize the term “sideline-to-sideline” and I see him having a monster day hitting Benson. I always enjoy watching power backs but at this stage in his career Benson is just plain slow. He has a career yards per carry of 3.8 and his last two years in Cinncinati that number was 3.5 and 3.9 respectively. I’m not going to read too much into the 3.4 he has posted so far with the Packers except to say that he hasn’t suddenly found new life or a new gear. Wagner has been primarily deployed as a run stopper so far as K.J Wright excels in pass coverage and Leroy Hill has been most likely to rush the passer. Today he will use his 4.45 speed to swallow up Benson at every opportunity. The only thing he has to worry about is making sure he wraps up because Benson still packs a punch and can break tackles and punish defenders. Shutting down the Packers running attack game is far from priority number one in this game but it couldn’t possibly hurt.
This is exactly the sort of game the Seahawks need to win if they want to win a division that seems to be improving by the day. It’s not going to be easy and they will likely need a couple of things to break their way to make it happen but it’s not as impossible as most Packers fans seem to believe. The one on one battles above are just a fraction of the team wide effort, discipline, and execution Seattle is going to need to win tonight on Monday Night Football.
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.
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.
When the Seahawjs released Mike Williams last week, they were left with about $11 million in cap room. In the last couple days, they’ve been putting that cap room to good use.
In the past few days, The Seahawks have extended the contracts for both Max Unger and Chris Clemons. Completing the bulk of re-signing to-do list for next year. Now they have just 12 expiring contracts for unrestricted free agents next season.
- DT A. Branch
- WR D. Butler
- QB T. Jackson
- TE C. Morrah
- CB M. Trufant
- LB M. McCoy
- LB L. Hill
- DL J. Jones
- OG D. Lutui
- MLB B. Ruud
- OL F. Omiyale
- RB T. Sutton
Of that group, only Branch is likely to be a high priority target at this point, though there are quite a few who could play their way into that status this season.
Clearly, next offseason appears that it will have a lot less drama than this past offseason had.
It seems like the Seahawks are using the last couple days before camp to lock up their players who will become free agents after this year. First it was Chris Clemons, and now starting center Max Unger.
Financial details on the contract are not available at the time that I’m writing this.
Unger has quietly developed into one of the game’s top centers. He was ranked among the top 10 by Pro Football Focus in both run and pass blocking. He didn’t allow a single QB hit or sack in 2011.
Locking him up long term is clearly a good thing for the Seahawks.