Although the NFL season isn’t over, unfortunately the Seahawks’ season is over so now is the time to talk about the off-season, even if the off-season isn’t officially upon us. The Seahawks have done an excellent job of building through the draft and that appears to be essential to their philosophy but that doesn’t mean that free agency should be ignored. John Schneider and Co. have dabbled in free agency over the past couple years with the signing of players like Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery, and frankly results have been mixed. Seattle has money to spend and is hoping to find some pieces to supplement the strong, young core of this team. One area of interest is the wide receiver position where there is a plethora of starting-quality options at a position where the Seahawks could use some help. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are all capable receivers but Russell Wilson could definitely use another weapon or two to take this passing offense to the next level. In this article I’ll outline some of the top free agent wide receivers that could be Seattle’s if they are willing to spend a pretty penny. In no particular order here are the top wide receivers available in free agency this year:
Dwayne Bowe: The big-bodied Bowe has been a very steady performer in some fairly terrible passing offenses in Kansas City with 1,000 yard seasons in 3 of the last 5 years, and 801 yards last year. Though Bowe is a bigger wide out he still has the ability to challenge a defense down the field. He has 13.8 yards per reception for his career, much of which has been spent in tandem with the noodle-armed Matt Cassel. Bowe is also a threat in the red zone as demonstrated by his 15 TD season in 2010 and has been able to consistently find pay dirt in the past (39 TD in 6 seasons). I think that Bowe would bring an element of physicality to the Seahawks receiving core that is currently lacking but he is not without his warts. There are plenty of whispers (some of them of the none-too-quiet variety) about work ethic and attitude issues with Bowe and he has a tendency to drop the ball, posting the 9th highest drop rate in the NFL between 2009 and 2011. Additionally, Bowe will turn 29 early in the 2013 season so if you sign him to a lengthy deal you are counting on him producing into his thirties, not impossible but not the safest bet either. Buying the decline years of a player, no matter how good he is, is always a dicey proposition. Still I think the Seahawks might be interested in Bowe because his skill set is unique to their receiving group and Pete Carroll thinks he can get anyone to buy in.
Danny Amendola: Danny Amendola is intriguing because he’s clearly a productive and useful player but he can’t seem to stay on the field, playing in 12 games over the last two seasons. Amendola was on pace for an 1,000 yard season this year with the Rams but ultimately had injuries befall him and ended up with only 666 yards. Amendola caught 5.7 balls a game this year which would have been 91 catches if he had played the whole season. Therein lies the rub. You can have absolutely beautiful rate stats but it doesn’t really matter unless you can pile up the gross numbers by staying on the field. Health is a skill in this league and Amendola’s 5 11 183 pound frame doesn’t scream durability. Someone will take a chance on Amendola’s elite quickness and ability to get open out of the slot but I’d rather it not be the Seahawks. As satisfying as it would be to take a quality player off a division rival I’d rather see the Rams resign Amendola (which I suspect they will given his chemistry with Sam Bradford) and live with the consequences. Amendola will be 28 in 2013 so age is not really a concern as slot receivers not relying on pure speed have potential to age gracefully, like Bobby Engram did. Even still, I think an investment in Amendola is one that ends in heartbreak, although it would be hard to be too disappointed if Seattle signed him because he is a really fine player.
Wes Welker: Wes Welker is a very interesting case. Looking at numbers alone makes one salivate at the prospect of adding a player like Wes Welker. Who wouldn’t want a receiver who has had 110+ catches in 5 of the last 6 years, leading the league thrice during that span? I bet a receiver with 7459 yards over the past six seasons also sounds fairly tempting. Also it isn’t as if Welker has slowed down at all recently, setting a career high with 1569 yards in 2011 and a still-fantastic 1354 yards in 2012. So what’s the hold up? The first one is arguably the most important number of all which is age. Welker will be 32 this year and although his style of play lends itself to a more generous aging curve 32 is pretty dangerous place to start a long term contract. Welker is a special player and he may yet have five or six productive years left in him but I’m not sure that’s something I want to bet tens of millions of dollars on. The second more profound question mark surrounding Wes Welker is what he is capable of outside of the New England offense and without Tom Brady. I’m not saying Welker doesn’t have a universally useful skill set, every team could use a ball catching machine out of the slot, but Welker didn’t show much in Miami before coming to New England and the concern is he’s sort of just a guy outside that system. I think both concerns are valid and I would steer clear of Welker, especially given that I still think Doug Baldwin can be a weapon out of the slot despite something of a lost 2012 season.
Mike Wallace: Of all the receivers mentioned so far Mike Wallace is both the fastest and the youngest. That’s a pretty good start in my book. Wallace is an absolute burner and he is only turning 27 this year so a free agent contract with Wallace stands to buy some of his peak years making it easier to be comfortable with a fairly generous term like 5 or 6 years. Mike Wallace is coming off a rough year, much of which can be attributed to Charlie Batchitude and also to a prolonged holdout going into the season. Clearly Mike Wallace wants to be paid, but he deserves to be paid. Over the last three years Wallace has put up 3286 yards receiving and 26 touchdowns. Although he is primarily a speed receiver the other parts of his game are growing as well. He has gone from 2.6 catches a game in his rookie year to 4.3 last year demonstrating an ability to contribute on short and intermediate patterns. Wallace has also been durable playing in 63 of a possible 64 games in his career. In short I’m a fan. I think now might be the time to buy a low (relatively speaking, this will still be a hefty contract) on Wallace. A wide receiving core featuring Wallace, Rice and Tate would be lethal down the field, giving opposing defensive backs nightmares. Wallace would look good in Seahawks colors.
Brian Hartline: Hartline, like Wallace, will be 27 this year and unlike Wallace is coming off an 1,000 yard season. While productive, Hartline lacks elite size and speed and can sometimes have trouble creating separation from quality defensive backs. While his numbers are slightly inflated by one massive game this season in which he went for well over 200 yards, Hartline is for real. I suspect that Miami will try and resign their de facto number one receiver who profiles as more of a #2 on a quality team. Honestly, that’s fine with me. There isn’t a great deal to hate about Hartline and he is coming off a good year but he’s not an impact talent in my book. Free agents, especially ones coming off good years, come at a premium cost and when you are paying a premium cost you best be sure you are getting a premium talent. Hartline is an appealing age and coming off a quality season but I’d rather sit out on the bidding which figures to exceed his value. I think both Rice and Tate are better players so I see no reason to add Hartline at an exorbitant cost.
Greg Jennings: Jennings is coming off a tough season where he fought through some difficult injuries and by all accounts the emergence of James Jones and Randall Cobb in Green Bay indicate he’s made his last Lambeau Leap. With 2 Pro Bowl berths and three 1,000 yard seasons to his name (and 2 more 900 yard seasons) Jennings is an accomplished and intriguing free agent option. Greg Jennings reminds me of Darrell Jackson at his peak, not the fastest but not slow, not the biggest but not small and able to simply get the job down. Jennings will be 30 this year so I would be hesitant to give him the sort of long term deal he’s likely asking for. I think Jennings would make a fine addition to the Seahawks but for me it depends on the price, if his age and recent injury concerns depress his value enough then pouncing on Jennings would be a prudent move but if the market sees him as a marquee #1 receiver I would back off. Also given the Sidney Rice is the resident injury risk the Seahawks might want someone more reliable if they are going to spend big in free agency. The market for Jennings is going to be very interesting, and one the Seahawks should keep tabs on.
This year’s free agency pool has some pretty impressive talent at the WR position. All the receivers listed here figure to play prominent roles on whatever team they end up on but enough of them carry red flags that we can expect a couple of busts. If the Seahawks are in the mood for big-ticket shopping at this position I’d recommend Bowe or Wallace but neither is cheap or risk free. However, if the Seahawks want to move up the ladder for great team to championship team they are going to have to take some risks. Luckily that’s never been a problem for this front office.
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
1) Stop Em’ Cold
- The Redskins averaged 169 yards per game on the ground throughout the season. It’s no secret they are going to try and establish a consistent, time-consuming game plan to offset Seattle’s new found high-octane offense. It will be up to the ‘Hawks D to create 3rd and Long situations for RG3, and take Alfred Morris out of the equation by going up early and being stout at the point of attack to force Washington into obvious passing situations where the Seahawks can best utilize their speed in their pass rush. Look for Chris Clemons, and Bruce Irvin to come up big in this one.
2) Wear Em’ Out
- On the other side of the ball, the Redskins gave up an average of 378 yards to opposing offenses on the year. This bodes well for a peaking Seattle Offense, and its power run game. While Washington did hold opponents to just under a 100 yards per game on the ground, look for the ‘Hawks to ‘Feed the Beast’, and rely heavily on Marshawn Lynch as well as it’s vertical passing game out of play-action to keep the aging Redskins defense on the field for extended periods of time in the fridgid, bone aching cold of FedEx Field. I would look for Sidney Rice to benefit greatly in this matchup, as he must be frustrated from the lack of looks he received against St. Louis on top of the fact the Redskins pass-D has been giving up an average of almost 300 yards per game. Could be a big game for the Seahawks Wideouts.
- While there are distinct differences in schematics, and approach, the Seahawks and Redskins adopt very similar philosophies when it comes to their offensive game plans. Run the football, utilize their youth and athleticism at the Quarterback position, and maintain field position and game clock dominance. In doing this, both teams have the advantage of having seen a version of what the other team is going to be doing come Sunday, to a degree, in practice. While the Redskins utilize the Pistol formation in most of its read-option packages, the Seahawks Defense will have had a good amount of familiarity in defending this type of offense, as it does so a weekly basis at the VMAC. While both teams can claim to have this advantage, I think it can only bolster a team’s chances on the road in the playoffs.
4) Road Warriors
- The Seahawks haven’t won on the road since 1983. It’s been well documented in the lead up to the game. It’s true, winning on the road in the playoffs, let alone in the regular season, is a tough hill to climb. If the Seahawks have any chance of moving on in the tournament, they’ll have to knock down the 29 year old roadblock that stands in their way in our Nation’s Capitol. One could cite numerous occasions when a Wild Card team has ran the house on the road to end up in the Big Game. The Giants did it just recently. But it’s not commonplace. Not by a long shot. However, this Seattle team has found a new resilience, a new gusto, born in the last 2 drives in Chicago and has been with them ever since. With the Smooth Operator in Wilson at the helm, and a ferocious Defense on the road, the formula for success is in place. It’s up to the Seahawks to execute it.
5) Silence is Golden
- While the 12th Man will be represented with a strong showing in Washington D.C., it will still be a rough go for the ‘Hawks if the 85-90,000+ at FedEx Field get going in a frenzy. As is true with any road game, the deflation of any home team momentum goes a long way to the overall feel and ‘buzz’ of the game. Look for the Seahawks to get things going early with a shot or 2 down the field to muzzle the efforts of the Redskins faithful. A nice completion to a streaking Golden Tate off of play-action on 2nd and 2 would definitely put a hush on the largest capacity venue in the NFL. Hey, maybe the 12th Man will turn it into a home game of sorts for the visiting Hawks. One can only hope…Best of luck to our beloved Seahawks, and all my 12th Men and Women around the world. I 3elieve. HAWKS!!
This week’s injury report is complex as one might expect going into week 16. The combination of end of season stress on athletes and seasonal illness is playing a role in preparing players for this vital Sunday Night Football matchup.
Seahawks Thursday Report:
Richard Sherman – did not practice – not injury related
Robert Turbin – did not practice – illness
Leon Washington – did not practice – illness
Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant – did not practice (wed or thurs) – Hamstring
Sidney Rice – did not practice – knee (wed or thurs)
Jeron Johnson – did not practice – groin (thurs)
Alan Branch – moved from did not practice to full practice between wed and thurs – ankle
Marshawn Lynch – moved from limited practice to full practice between wed and thurs – back
49ers Thursday Report:
Clark Haggens and Justin Smith did not practice wed or Thursday, shoulder and elbow respectively
Ahmed Brooks, Tarell Brown, Mario Manningahm, Bruce Miller and Alden Smith – limited practice – shoulder
Tavares Gooden – limited practice – ribs
Will Takuafu – limited practice – concussion
David Akers, Alex Boone, NaVarro Bowmen, Frank Gore, Mike Lupati, Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Patrick Willis were full practice both weds and thurs.
Team Transactions (last seven days):
- The Seahawks placed DE Jason Jones on injured reserve and signed DT Hebron Fangupo from the practice squad to active roster.
- Signed WR Bryan Walters to the practice squad.
- Signed LB Kyle Knox to Practice Squad.
- Released TE Evan Moore. Signed TE Sean McGrath from practice squad.
- Released WR Lavasier Tuinei from the Practice Squad and signed DE Monte Taylor to the Practice Squad.
- Placed WR Charly Martin on Reserve/Injured list. Signed WR Deon Butler to Active Roster.
Expect DTs Greg Scruggs, Hebron Fangupo and Jaye Howard to play significant roles in Sunday’s matchup at the Clink! and Jaye Howard to play significant roles in Sunday’s matchup at the Clink!
First off let me say that a tie is bogus. Nothing to do with the Seattle game per se, but it could have implications later on in the season. Football is the only professional sport that can still end in a tie. I get that it’s huge men slamming into each other and that sort of physical activity does not take place in basketball and baseball. However, going into multiple overtimes in the other sports, basketball especially, also runs increased risks of injury. A tie means that the game should pretty much never have been played. The Niners and Rams could have, and should have, gone at least another fifteen minutes.
Anyways, onto the Seahawks game. It was an ugly game. Not sexy to watch and nothing big was proven. Rex Ryan has had good success at limiting rookie quarterbacks and Russell Wilson did better than the standard, but it was still ugly. If you aren’t going to throw it away, then definitely don’t fumble it……twice.
I have to say that I love the flea flicker being used with some regularity. Sidney Rice can throw, Golden Tate can throw (albeit ugly), and of course Wilson can throw. It’s a better option than any sort of wild cat formation. With that said, I know Mark Sanchez isn’t a good quarterback, but if people really think Tim Tebow would be any better, then move to Washington, because whatever you’re smoking is now legal in the Evergreen state. Tebow hardly works as a gimmick. If he got every snap, teams would watch tape on him, stack the box, and shut him down.
Kudos to Marshawn Lynch for breaking 1,000 yards in the season after only ten games. Huge milestone. Honestly, the 1,000 yard mark doesn’t mean the same thing it used to, but it’s still a big achievement. Seeing how bummed Lynch was after his fumble was honestly reassuring. I know what it feels like to think you let your team down and to see that kind of emotion, dedication, and reflection in a player means a lot. I’m not saying other players don’t get frustrated, but for Lynch it was personal. He then ran for two touchdowns.
Richard Sherman is the man. I can’t wait to get my number 25 jersey. Only question is: what color? I love his attitude and his complete ability to back it up. An interception, a sack, a forced fumble, three tackles, and three defenced passes. All while battling bronchitis! If that doesn’t scream all-pro, I don’t know what does. Seeing him cover Brandon Marshall in three weeks is going to be awesome. I anticipate Jay Cutler encountering some severe frustration with Seattle’s secondary. Hopefully, Seattle’s run defense is also rested and improved by then.
I still really want to see Zach Miller used more in the offense. I don’t like our receivers left hung out to dry over the middle, late. Seattle can’t afford to lose any more receivers. I’m also not sold on Evan Moore or Anthony McCoy. I would love to see Miller retained and get another solid tight end in the off season or draft.
Although the game was ugly, it’s reassuring to see the Seahawks gut-it-out and win. It’s more important to win than to win pretty. This is what it will take to beat teams like Chicago and San Francisco. Seattle really has to go 3-o in the remaining division games. That is critical step number one to making the playoffs. San Francisco and Chicago are the two teams left that pose serious challenges from the get-go. Arizona and Miami could also be candidates for an upset, so the Seahawks can’t afford to get complacent.
All that being said, I think Seattle tastes it. They know they are on the precipice. They can feel how close they are and it only makes them hungrier. Needless to say, I was pretty devastated with the loss to the Niners and then the Lions. After those two losses, I felt like I was staring into the abyss for the 2012 season. I believe the Seahawks players did too, yet they were able to step away from the ledge after having confronted that potential fate. Now I, the 12th Man, and the Seahawks seem poised to go “once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
Today the Seahawks face a team that is a mess offensively (27th in the league in yards per game) and not nearly as good as it used to be on defense (16th in yardage) and they get to face them at home. They say there are no easy wins in the NFL but this is a win the Seahawks have to get if they have any serious playoff aspirations. While it’s true the Jets aren’t just going to roll over for them, Seattle is the superior team and personally I don’t think it’s close. Let’s take a look at some of today’s deciding matchups.
Matchup #1: Chris Clemons vs. D’Brickashaw Ferguson
Clemons have an impressive 7 sacks through the first 9 games of the season and although a great deal of that was concentrated in the Green Bay game he looks on track for a third consecutive double digit sack campaign. Clemons has been quiet over his last 3 games with only 4 tackles and no sacks and he might be in tough again today. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, my favourite name in sports, is a quality tackle, who has lived up to his draft pedigree (4th Overall) with 3 Pro Bowls to date. Ferguson is an athletic pass protector who is unlikely to be beaten by Clemons’s pure quickness. Sitting at 295 lbs he is small for an OT and as a result the best way to beat Ferguson is likely with power, not really Clemons’s strong suit. Clemons could use a big game but I think a quiet game is more likely against New York’s steady tackle.
Matchup #2: Marshawn Lynch vs. David Harris
Lynch was coming off a career year last season and it was fair to expect some level of regression but instead he has absolutely taken off in 2012. He is on pace to blow away his career high in rushing yardage considering his yards per game is 17 higher than last year’s total. His yards per carry is an impressive 4.8, blowing away his previous career high. There is credit to be given to the offensive line here as well, but Lynch has been every bit the beast Seahawks fans have come to love. His challenge between the tackles today is the stout, strong tackling machine David Harris. Harris is on pace for 130 tackles this year and can be found all over the field when the Jets are on defense. Harris is an underrated playmaker with the size (6-2 250) to counter power backs like Lynch. Regardless of the skills that Harris possesses I don’t see him slowing down Marshawn today. Lynch has faced more intimidating run defenses and succeeded and I think he should be fine against Harris today.
Matchup #3: The Seahawks Defense vs. Multi-Purpose Threat Tim Tebow
I’m just kidding. Tebow is irrelevant. I do hope he gets his comeuppance regarding his comments about the crowd noise at the Clink in the form of dozens of false starts for the Jets though.
Actual Matchup #3: Golden Tate vs. Kyle Wilson
Golden Tate has really come alive this year and is starting to become the kind of weapon and “touchdown maker” that Carroll envisioned when he used a 2nd round pick on him back in 2010. Tate is on pace for career highs in every category and while he’s not lighting the world on fire statistically, he is doing his part in an offense that relies heavily on the running game to do the heavy lifting. Sidney Rice is likely to draw Antonio “Best Cornerback in the NFL” Cromartie, who is very good despite the absurdness of his claims, which leaves Tate with Kyle Wilson in a matchup he will need to win for the Seahawks passing game to really get going. Some questioned the Jets for drafting Kyle Wilson with a first round pick when they already had two quality corners but Wilson has already made 19 starts in two and a half years. Injuries happen and quality depth is important. So far Wilson has been quality depth be he has yet to really shine. Tate has no height advantage over Wilson but he is bigger and stronger and should be able to beat the jam should Wilson attempt to apply it. Look for a lot of targets for Tate today in the short passing game.
When a 3-5 team comes to town that is a game a good team has to win. It is my belief that the Seahawks are a good team. It is also my belief that they will win.
I think it goes without saying that this is a ridiculously important game. I also think that it’s ridiculous that every time the phrase “it goes without saying” is used the person then goes on to say what supposedly goes without saying. That, however, is a separate issue. Tonight the Seahawks travel to San Francisco for a Thursday night game that could define this season. A win tonight would put the Seahawks at 5-2 with all remaining divisional games at the Clink where they are undefeated and undoubtedly a better team. That’s what they call the driver’s seat. A loss would put them back in the pack at 4-3 with quite a bit of clawing to do if they hope to win the division. This will be the Seahawks’ most challenging test so far:an elite team to compete with in a hostile environment. They will need their A game and a couple of breaks here and there to escape Candlestick with a win. Today we look at some of the matchups the Seahawks need to win to make that happen.
Matchup #1: Marshawn Lynch vs. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman
Despite not putting up gaudy touchdown totals Marshawn Lynch is having himself a career year. He is averaging 91.5 yards a game, as opposed to 80.3 last year. More impressively he is averaging 4.3 yards a carry, another career high, despite the fact every defense he faces is loaded up to stop him. Running between the tackles is where Lynch excels but he faces a stiff challenge in the Pro Bowl duo of Willis and Bowman. These ILB’s have absolutely terrorized opposing running games making offenses one dimension and creating opportunities for the 49ers pass rush and secondary. Last week Ahmad Bradshaw put up 116 yards against the 49ers, a virtually unheard of number against this defensive front led by Willis and Bowman. Lynch will be hoping this is the start of a trend rather than a one-time fluke but I doubt he will be so lucky.
Matchup #2: Sidney Rice vs. Carlos Rogers
Last week Rice showed us what we’ve been paying for. During his time with the Seahawks it has been hard to isolate Rice’s struggles from the struggles of the quarterbacks throwing to him and as such hard to evaluate his performance. Now it appears he might just be starting to click with Russell Wilson and the numbers we’ve been expecting might begin to follow. It also helps that he seems healthy for once. Today he faces Carlos Rogers, a cornerback on the wrong side of 30 having a career renaissance. Rogers was a first round pick but largely nothing special during his tenure with Washington but something about the move to the 49ers energized Rogers as he set a career high in interceptions last year at 6 (his previous season high was 2 and he had 8 total in 6 years with the Redskins). Rogers is a bigger corner at 6-0 199 (not like Seahawks corner big, but bigger) and could make things difficult for Rice today. I do think Rice is beginning to hit his stride though so look for a couple big catches and maybe a pass interference drawn (Fun Fact: Sidney Rice has drawn the most pass interference yardage in the league this year with 74 yards).
Matchup #3: Jon Ryan vs. Ted Ginn Jr.
Like a fine wine from Saskatchewan, Jon Ryan gets better with age. The Regina native is booting it 50.7 yards a kick so far this year coming off a year where he put up a career high 46.6 yards an attempt. Having a star punter may not win you many headlines but it sure is useful. Ryan is a field position weapon and in a battle between two elite defenses field position can be everything. You may recall, even though you would really rather not, that the Seahawks have had some problems with Ted Ginn Jr. in the past. Despite being comically over-drafted, Ginn is exactly the electrifying return talent that he was expected to be, although not a complete game changer of Hester’s caliber. Pinning Ginn to the side lines will be important in containing him and I wouldn’t complain if Ryan wanted to simply punt it out of bounds and let Alex Smith try and beat the Seahawks defense. It will be interesting to see what strategy the Seahawks use and what kind of job Ryan and his coverage team does at containing one of the most explosive men in the league.
If you are a connoisseur of punting this might be the game for you. Two defenses like this are bound to keep it close and interesting to the end. This is the sort of game that is extremely difficult to win, especially on the road, but at this point I’m just about done thinking there is anyone the Seahawks don’t have a chance against. With any luck the 49ers loss to the Giants is a sign of a complete and utter collapse to follow. Don’t count on it. Count on a good game.
The Seahawks are now a quarter of the way through the season. They are 2-2 overall, and 0-2 in their division. They could be 4-0, barring two late game offensive collapses against Arizona and St. Louis, and they could be 1-3 if the call goes differently at the end of the game against Green Bay. The only game the Seahawks absolutely won was at home against Dallas. Seattle should have beat St. Louis. There is nobody that can convince me otherwise. The Rams didn’t beat the Seahawks, the Seahawks beat themselves. The Seahawks once again showed a completely dominant defense (not allowing a single touchdown) and a potent ground attack (both Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin had great games). The passing offense was completely impotent. In fact, it was embarrassing and it was clear the Rams didn’t respect it. The Rams would rush around both ends of the line and, while I think the offensive line did alright, Wilson did not have the poise required.
I have received some pretty vitriolic and ridiculous comments from people who feel I am being too hard on Russell Wilson and I have no doubt that there will be a few after this post. Reality, however is that he is not effectively running Seattle’s offense. Pete Carroll can take responsibility for the uncreative play-calling but Wilson is the one on the field, leading the charge. I have no doubt that if the Seahawks were doing well, Wilson would get the lion’s share of credit, which is fair, but credit and responsibility cuts both ways. As Jason pointed out on Twitter, if three events don’t happen we’d be thinking differently about Wilson. While this is true, the fact is, it happened the way it did. Doug Baldwin should have caught that ball that went through his arms. Anthony McCoy shouldn’t have slipped. And Seattle should never have fallen for the fake field goal. (The third is totally inexcusable in my opinion.)
Wilson is yet to have any sort of “break-out” performance. When I listen to Fox, CBS, and NFL Network’s pre and post-game “discussions,” Wilson is no longer mentioned along with Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, and Robert Griffin. I’m not saying I like the punditry or even agree with it, but it is telling. Seattle does have more rushing yards than passing yards and has shown a complete ineptitude in the passing game.
I don’t know that Matt Flynn would be better. It might even be that is injured in some way and that is preventing him from playing (even though I’d require more clarity on this phantom injury that Carroll is citing before buying it). What I do know, though, is that as a fan I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of rebuilding. We have an elite defense and we’d be a 3-1 team, with at least one division win, if we had even an average offense. I’ll admit that I’m very frustrated.
I want Russell Wilson to succeed. Believe me when I say that I do. I want him to succeed because I want the Seahawks to win. I want Seattle, as a city, to have a team that is a perennial contender. The current iteration of the Seahawks, though, is not a contender. Wilson is bothered by blitzes and it takes a little extra work, and time, for him to get a good vantage of the passing lanes. I see the potential for him to be a good quarterback but, as a fan, I’m not willing to burn a season on him getting there. I’d rather have Wilson as backup for three seasons while he learned the pro-game and, hopefully, win in the meantime with a quarterback that has spent time as a backup and does have a better familiarity with the offense. Essentially, I care about the team’s success above any individual player’s success.
In short, I want to win, and I want to win now. I don’t care who leads us to victory but after a quarter of the season, I feel less and less like Wilson, at this very early point in his career, can do that. When Seattle needs to score a touchdown late in the game, I feel anything but confident. For the defense to allow only field goals, some of them at a ridiculous distance, and still lose upsets me as a fan. It’s frustrating to see a lot of energy spent, and ultimately wasted, because the offense, and special teams in this game, can’t get their act together.
Finally, I would like to know that certain key members of the team share my sense of urgency and desperation. I know Lynch does because of the way he runs on every carry. The normally thoughtful Sidney Rice does, as well. I think the vast majority of the team does because they are built that way and if they live around the Seattle area, it’s hard not to realize how much Seattle wants this team to succeed now.
I would like to know Russell Wilson also feels that way. I am not questioning who he is as a person or a leader. This is something purely personal that I want to know about my team’s athletes. As a fan, when my team loses, I feel crappy the rest of the day. My dad knows not to call me to talk about the game. My girlfriend gives me my space. It’s who I am. I am proud of my city in all its aspects, including is sports teams. And when something happens that reflects badly upon that which I love, I wear my heart on my sleeve and take it (too) personally. Therefore, I feel better when I know that players hate losing as much as I do. I don’t think Wilson likes to lose, but I want him to understand he is representing a city that has been screwed by sports fairly regularly. I want him to have that sense of urgency and competitive edge. I don’t like seeing optimistic “positive” tweets after a loss about moving forward and learning. I assume professionals learn after a loss. I don’t need to be told that. If you didn’t learn you wouldn’t be a pro. I want to know that the disappointment is shared. I wouldn’t be upset if there was an overt flash of frustration after the first four games. Breno Giacomini’s two personal foul penalties were not an acceptable expression of frustration.
Fair or not, the quarterback is generally the “leader” and “face” of a team and right now, that’s Wilson. That comes with all of the perks, accolades, and blame (all of which may sometimes be out of proportion) to actual events. And have no doubt; if Matt Flynn or anyone else was running our current offense and everything was the same, I’d be equally critical of them.
It is painfully clear that things aren’t firing on all cylinders and there is a lot of untapped potential in the offense. If I knew my frustration was shared by key leaders, I’d feel better following a very disappointing first four games.
*Quick disclaimer. These posts are titled “Gut Reaction” for a reason. They are literally my immediate thoughts and feelings from within 24 hours of the game (sans the profanity) in written form. While there may be some actual nuggets of analysis in these posts, they generally aren’t acmes of analysis. (I’d say they are approximately 80% emotion and 20% analysis.) I encourage all forms of discussion and comments, but I want readers to understand that the intent of these posts before making ridiculous accusations against yours truly.
Every game is important but for me this game is especially critical. Divisional wins are always valuable, and for the Seahawks proving they can win outside of the friendly confines of the Clink is always a challenge. This won’t be easy. The Rams are a better team than they are given credit for and the Seahawks offense is sputtering right now and will need to improve to score consistently against what is a fairly solid defense. There’s a big difference between 3-1 and 2-2 so let’s take a look at the matchups that will give the Seahawks a chance to sit 2 games above .500 at the quarter mark of the season.
Matchup #1: Marcus Trufant/Richard Sherman vs. Danny Amendola
Amendola has been extraordinarily productive through the first three weeks of the season with 25 catches and 296 yards. Amendola won’t beat you deep but he will get open and make all the catches underneath. If the Seahawks leave Trufant to cover Amendola in the slot they could be inviting Bradford to nickel and dime them all day with short throws to his favorite receiver. If they have Sherman shadow Amendola they stand a better chance but I can also see the small, quick, shifty receiver being the sort of player Sherman might have trouble with. Amendola is a mortal lock to catch 5+ balls but if he can be largely contained the Rams lack another consistent threat catching the ball.
Matchup #2: Chris Clemons vs. Ty Nsekhe
If you have not heard of Ty Nsekhe that is more than understandable. The Ram’s third string tackle is so obscure I couldn’t even find a Wikipedia page for him. All I can tell you about Nsekhe is that he is a 27 year old rookie out of Texas State and a very big man at 6-8 325 lbs. Nsekhe is pressed into duty due to knee injuries to both Roger Saffold and former Seahawk Wayne Hunter. I do not envy his position. Last week Clemons put on a pass rushing clinic the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s not fair to expect an encore but I do think Clemons in an excellent position to succeed. I’m sure Nsekhe will be getting help all day but I would be very surprised if Clemons failed to put a few hits on Sam Bradford today.
Matchup #3: Sidney Rice vs. Cortland Finnegan
The Seahawks passing game needs to get going this week if they want to win on the road. When you are struggling you look to your best players to be your best players. Rice is the Seahawks best receiver in theory but he sure hasn’t played like it yet this year. Seahawks receivers, including Rice, have struggled to get separation but Rice needs to find a way to get open even if it’s as simple as using his size advantage. Finnegan, like him or hate him, is an effective corner and presents a difficult challenge for Rice. Finnegan is a dirty player and if Rice can keep his cool that can probably be exploited to the tune of a penalty or two but Rice really needs to catch 4+ balls in this game to reestablish himself as a factor in this offense. Seattle’s offense isn’t scaring anyone right now but Rice has the potential to add an important element if he can make his presence felt this week.
I think this game will be very telling in showing exactly where the Seahawks are at this point in the season. I expect an ugly low scoring game but if the Seahawks are feeling like blowing out the Rams I really wouldn’t mind. The Rams are a real challenge for the first time for a couple of years but an challenge the Seahawks need to be able to overcome if they want to compete with Arizona and San Francisco.
This week the Seahawks are in for a division road game and, while they are favored, winning in a rival’s house is never easy. This is exactly the type of game that fans take for granted as a victory when they are looking at the schedule but it will actually be extraordinarily difficult to win. The Cardinals are a fantastic home team and the Seahawks have an awful history playing at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Also Week 1 games tend to be volatile and unpredictable as it’s hard to know exactly how teams will come out of the gate. Today I examine a couple of matchups that will be crucial in determining the outcome of this hard fought battle.
Matchup #1: Chris Clemons vs. D’Anthony Batiste
Chris Clemons has proven himself to be a quality pass rusher during his time in Seattle and on Sunday he gets what looks to be a very favorable matchup. Commentators commonly try to point out that Clemons and other Seahawks pass rushers do much better at home due to crowd noise, in Clemons case this demonstrably false. Last year Clemons got 9 of his 11 sacks on the road and in 2010 he registered 6.5 out of his 11 away from home. The foreign terrain won’t be an obstacle for Seattle’s ace pass rusher and I’m not sure the LT he lines up against will either. D’Anthony Batiste was an undrafted free agent in 2004. He spent some time in both the AFL and the CFL before catching on with the Cowboys in 2006. In his 6 years in the NFL Batiste has played for 6 teams and started only 4 games. I suppose the fact he has stuck around so long mean something but I’m not exactly sure what that something is. Don’t be surprised to see the over-matched 30 year old journeyman allow a sack or two, even with the TE and RB help he’s sure to get. Clemons should, and likely will, have his way in Week 1.
Matchup #2: Richard Sherman vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is a player to be respected and feared. Even though Arizona’s QB play has been shaky since the departure of Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald continues to produce. He has unbelievable hands and is a monster with the ball in the air. He is the one true threat on a team with a relatively inept offense. Sherman is the type of big corner that, in theory, is meant to combat Fitzgerald’s strengths. However, last year it didn’t work out like that. Fitzgerald compiled 14 receptions, 213 yards and a touchdown in his two games against Seattle in 2011. I think we can give Sherman a rookie mulligan on that one though. Sherman was a revelation as a rookie and Larry Fitzgerald is capable of dominating any corner on any given Sunday. This week I look forward to seeing that if Sherman can make the necessary adjustments to contain Fitzgerald. If he does it’s a good sign that his second season will have him building on his standout year as opposed to regressing into sophomore slump.
Matchup #3: Sidney Rice vs. Patrick Peterson
I have high hopes for Sidney Rice this year and I think that today he has the opportunity to get off to a good start. Patrick Peterson is no pushover though, in fact he’s an elite talent who was drafted 5th overall in 2011.He has excellent size at 6-1 219 and blazing speed (4.34 40 at the Combine). He had an excellent rookie year as a punt returner which overshadowed the work he did as a corner. Peterson started all 16 games for the Cardinals and was fairly average in coverage. At his age, 22 this year, not being an amazing cover corner right away is not at all a huge deal. In fact I’d say the odds of Peterson becoming a star CB in the NFL with his otherworldly athleticism are excellent. I just don’t think he’s there yet. For example, Peterson recorded 13 passes defended and 2 interceptions last year. To put that in perspective Richard Sherman had 17 passes defended and 4 picks in only 10 starts and Browner had 23 passes defended and 6 interceptions. I think this shows that Peterson is not yet adept at making plays on the ball compared to his Seahawks counterparts (who, to be fair, are pretty good). As Rice ages and Peterson improves the Seahawks wide receiver will become more and more unlikely to win this matchup, but this Sunday I like his chances.
Tomorrow is a day that many have been waiting a long time for. Week 1 is always exciting at as fans from all across the league are brimming with optimism about their teams. Hopefully the optimism of Seahawks fans will be rewarded.
Week 3 of the preseason brings us to Arrowhead Stadium, and the talented Kansas City Chiefs. Here are 5 things to keep in eye out for as we near the Regular Season….
1) It’s Russel Wilson’s Job to Lose
- With the announcement that Russell Wilson is set to start this ever important 3rd preseason game, Seahawk fans found themselves both perplexed, and baffled. When the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn in the offseason, it was thought that he was brought in to be the heir apparent. This all changed when the ‘Hawks drafted Russell Wilson in the 3rd round of the draft. Since Day 1, Coach Carroll has maintained that this was an open competition, and Wilson would have his chance to start. Well, with 2 solid performances thus far, it’s finally his job to lose. With another stellar performance, this time against a very good 1st team defense, then it’s almost certain that Russell Wilson ends up as the Week 1 starter. If the Chiefs defense can rattle Wilson, and his rising star falls back to earth, then we can expect to see Flynn annoited the starter, and Wilson will develop as the backup. For as long as I can remember there hasn’t been a preseason game that carried such weight, and importance as this. When the game is over, Seahawk fans will finally have an indication of who their starting quarterback for 2012 will be.
2) Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. The Dynamic Duo.
- When the Kansas City Chiefs were on the clock in the 2010 NFL Draft with the 5th overall pick, Eric Berry was the consensus selection by most draft pundits. However, some evaluators had another safety, Earl Thomas out of Texas, as the better prospect. When the Chiefs did select Berry, it was a no-brainer for the Seahawks at 14 to select Earl Thomas. Both picks have worked out well for their respective teams. Both have made the Pro-Bowl, Berry as a rookie (though it could be argued that Thomas warranted a nod his rookie season as well), and Thomas last year while Berry sat out the season with a knee injury. It will be fun to see both #29′s out there flying around on the same field, fueling the argument of which was the better pick. So far, I think everybody’s a winner here. 2 of the best safeties to come out of college in years, both in the same draft mind you, wearing the same number, playing the same ferocious style of ball-hawking, game-changing effort we’ve grown to love. Exciting stuff 12th Man, should be fun to watch.
3) Sid Rice is Back!
- Since his arrival, Seahawks fans have been excited to see Sidney Rice healthy, and have a season like the one he had in 2009 with Brett Favre. His 1st season in Seattle he started out injured, returned and showed flashes of his true self, then fell victim to the ever-growing ailment that are concussions, ending his season. While he was sidelined, Sid, and the Seahawks medical staff, thought it would be a good time to clean up another lingering injury, his shoulders. Both of them. Now we’re at Game 3 of the preseason, and Mr. Rice is cleared to go. It’s going to be interesting to see how much game action he gets, as well as the type of routes the coaching staff will send him on. I doubt we’ll see him cross the field on an in-route, or enter Eric Berry territory on a skinny post. Let’s just give him a couple hitches, maybe a streak route, or 2, and call it a day. There’s no reason to do anything with our #1 Wide Receiver than knock a bit of the rust off, and stretch out those game legs. Welcome Back Sid. We missed ya.
4) ‘It all starts up front…’ : Part 2
- This will be a great litmus test as to where the ‘Hawks truly are with both their Offensive, and Defensive lines. The O-line looked pretty solid last week as the Seahawks amassed over 200 yards rushing, while the pass blocking was good at times. However, the penalties for holding and for roughness piled up ceaslessly. Coach Tom Cable has done an outstanding job gelling this unit together. If one guy goes down, another steps in without missing a beat. They’ve even adopted a bit of the nastiness he looks for in his hog-mollies. But let’s keep it between the whistles, and play smart. Penalties killed at least one touchdown drive, and had the offense in 3rd and long a couple other times. In this final dress rehearsal before the season begins, let’s hope the offensive line rotation we’ll see thoughout the season takes that final step, and we see smart, sturdy, violent play from the big boys up front.
5) Preseason or Not, Where’s the Pass Rush?
- I’ll start by conceding that yes, it is the preseason. Teams don’t generally like to doing anything exotic, or indicitive of their plans for the regular season when it comes to blitzes, and pressures. I get that. But what concerns me is the Seahawks overall inability to get even close to pressure on opposing teams starting QB’s. Last week against Peyton Manning was borderline frustrating. Snap after snap ‘The Sheriff’ was given what seemed like hours to throw the ball. If it wasn’t for some key drops, it could of really looked pretty ugly. We know the ‘Hawks have the talent and depth up front to really put a hurtin’ on opposing QB’s, and their passing attack, but let’s not bask in the vanilla stew that is the preseason pass rush. It’s time to ramp up the design, and unleash the likes of Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, and the rest of our talented front seven. Give Matt Cassell a lesson in the collapsing pocket, and enter Week 1 with the swagger that comes with breaking an opposing QBs spirit on a well designed blitz.
When the Seahawks drafted Golden Tate two years ago I have to say that I was pretty pleased about it. The selection of Tate was coming off a first round where both Russell Okung and Earl Thomas fell to the Seahawks and I don’t think I was alone in my jubilation regarding the 2010 draft. Draft pundits had pegged Tate as a late first round-early second round value and it seemed the Seahawks had come away with a steal. We are now entering the third year of Golden Tate’s tenure with the Seahawks and I’m not sure we know exactly what kind of player we are dealing with. Tate sits on the bubble of the roster with a legitimate chance to not make the 2012 Seahawks. Even if Tate does make the team he will need to carve out a role for himself in short order if he hopes to stick around in the long term. A look at the skills Tate possesses, his production over the last two years and his opportunity for playing time for this year’s Seahawks team gives us a sense of whether Golden Tate will break through or fade into obscurity at this crossroads in his career.
The first and perhaps most important question is what Golden Tate’s skill set is. Coming into the draft Golden Tate was often described as a wide receiver in a runningback’s body. Tate is shorter and stouter than your average wideout and yet he has both excellent speed (4.42 at the Combine) and elusiveness. At Notre Dame, Tate showed that he was dangerous and difficult to tackle in the open field and made a multitude of explosive plays. Tate seems to possess the skills of a “touchdown maker” as prized by Pete Carroll. Not only was he considered to be a receiving threat but also a threat returning punts. Tate returned 16 punts for 202 yards in his rookie year for a more than respectable average of 12.6 yards per return. Last year he ceded the role to Leon Washington and was unable to showcase his abilities in that area. He has not suffered any major injuries and is only 24 years old so there is no reason to believe he doesn’t possess the same athleticism and physical abilities he did coming out of the draft. Tate was often compared to Steve Smith coming out of college which gives a sense of what he brings to the table athletically. Tate has a high ceiling due to top level athleticism and rare ability with the ball in his hands. The weakness in his game that draft experts pointed to, and still applies today, is his route-running. Tate’s route running was considered very raw and it could be argued that it has not taken great strides since he joined the Seahawks. Much like many other young receivers Tate also struggles against the jam. The total package is a confusing set of tools. Tate is dynamic with the ball in his hands but he lacks the route-running acumen to get open consistently even though he doesn’t lack for speed. Tate is talented and explosive but also limited. His skills have been described as unique but until the Seahawks find a way to harness them Tate would be better off with a more conventional set of abilities. There are reasons to be excited about what Tate brings to the table but also an equal number of reasons to be concerned.
Where Golden Tate looks utterly unimpressive is in the realm of quantifiable production. In his rookie year Tate caught 21 passes for 227 yards. Last year Tate improved on those numbers by catching 35 passes for 382 yards. It would be easy to be deceived by these numbers into believing that Tate was taking strides towards becoming a more productive receiver when this is not actually the case. The only difference between the stat lines is related to the amount of games Tate played. Tate played 11 games in his rookie year as opposed to 16 last year and when we examine his production on a per game basis it is virtually the same. Tate averaged 1.9 receptions per game in 2010 as opposed to 2.2 last year, a difference of 0.3. In terms of yardage Tate averaged 20.6 in 2010 and 23.9 last year. Even on a per reception level Tate averaged 10.8 in his rookie year and 10.9 last year. In a sense Tate has been very consistent, just consistently unproductive. I found these statistics to be somewhat surprising as I had thought that Tate had improved slightly last year. Instead the numbers paint the picture of a receiver whose career is in a holding pattern. Glimpses of hope can be found the fact the Tate led Seattle wide receivers by catching 62% of balls thrown his way. However, Tate was often catching shorter, higher percentage passes and the catch rate statistic is far from a perfect one. It is fair to say that whichever way you slice it Golden Tate’s production has been disappointing.
Perhaps the most important factor determining whether Tate will finally break through this season is the opportunity he is presented with. The Seahawks wide receiver situation is fluid to say the least so on the surface it appears as if Tate could really step up and be a factor in the passing game. However, whether he will have a chance to do so likely depends on which wide receiver position the Seahawks want to play him at. The Flanker position is held down by the immensely talented but rather fragile Sidney Rice, Split End is wide open at the moment in the wake of the Mike Williams departure, with Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette headlining a myriad of contenders, and the Slot is occupied by the already immortal Doug Baldwin. Tate has played all these positions in his time with the Seahawks but his abilities seem to lend themselves best to the Slot. If the Seahawks see Tate as a slot receiver then he is trapped behind Baldwin with no chance to shine. If the brass determines that Tate should be playing on the outside he is looking at two spots: one that is completely wide open and one that is inhabited by someone with durability issues. The Seahawks’ wide receiver situation is a double edged sword for Tate; he either has an enormous opportunity or virtually no opportunity whatsoever.
It is often said that receiver is a position that takes a while to learn how to play at the NFL level. Fantasy Football aficionados are probably familiar with the “third year receiver” phenomenon, the logic being that this is the time in many receiver’s careers when they really break out. No matter how much credence you put in that theory the fact is that this is Golden Tate’s third NFL season and it is time for him to produce. It no longer matters that he was a second round pick or a star at Notre Dame. All that matters for Golden Tate is what he can produce today because his high draft pick rope has come to an end and if he is not one of the five or six best receivers in camp he will not make the team. Tate still has the talent to be a useful weapon in the NFL, even if perhaps he will have to be deployed creatively to succeed, but he also has the potential to fall of the face of the Earth. There is a massive gap between the best case and worst case scenarios for Golden Tate in 2012, making this truly his make or break year.
Preseason games are typically not as exciting to watch as regular season games, but their are sometimes certain circumstances where, at the very least, they provide a controversial topic that makes them somehow better than one might … [visit site to read more]
Tags: Charlie Whitehurst, coach, football, Free Agency, John Carlson, Minnesota Vikings, nfl, Oakland Raiders, Pete Carroll, QB, quarterback, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, sidney rice, tarvaris jackson, Tight End, wide receiver, Zach Miller