Sunday, February 23, 2014

An embarrassment of roster riches

The conventional wisdom is that Seattle needs to keep the team together to repeat as Super Bowl champions. That is neither possible nor desirable. The goal is to retain enough players to maintain chemistry while integrating upgraded talent.

The Seahawks soar into free agency and the draft in an enviable personnel situation. Let us count the ways:

1) We just won a Super Bowl with the league's deepest roster. Our only real weakness is the offensive line.

2) Because Seattle just won a Super Bowl, players will take less money to stay with or to join our team, in the hopes of winning a championship.
3) The Great Collaborators (Coach Carroll and GM John Schneider) evidently intend to exploit the rookie salary cap by grooming young talent to make players expendable when they reach free agency and demand too much money. Our roster is so deep on defense that there are no must-keep free agents. Smart personnel moves and great coaching have apparently created an inexhaustible pipeline of young, fast and interchangeable defensive backs, linebackers and D-linemen. Michael Bennett is a great football player, and it would be great to keep him, but if the market bids up his price to an unreasonable level, we'll be fine without him. We could get by without drafting any defensive players, but watch us draft a bunch of them, anyway. (Prediction: Bruce Irvin gets cut or traded.)

4) We have barely tapped into the potential of our 2013 rookies. They were a talented group, but because our veteran roster was so good and so deep, the younglings had trouble making the team and competing to earn playing time. Injuries at tight end pressed 5th rounder Luke Willson into service. Attrition on the O-line gave 7th rounder Michael Bowie some playing time. Our top draft pick--2nd round running back Christine Michael--was inactive most games, and when active, he rarely played, getting just a few chances to run the ball in garbage time. 3rd round defensive tackle Jordan Hill played sparingly in just 3 games. Several Seahawk rookies--5th round defensive tackle Jesse Williams, 5th round cornerback Tharold Simon and 6th round running back Spencer Ware--were placed on injured reserve, probably less for health reasons than to ensure that other teams could not steal them. Rival teams did in fact scavenge two players from our practice squad: the Packers jacked 4th round wideout Chris Harper, and the 49ers jumped our claim to 7th round guard Ryan Seymour. The only draftee we cut--7th round defensive end Ty Powell--caught on with the Bills. The 2013 rookies who remain with the team will return to vie for roster spots next year against other incumbents and against new free agents and the 2014 draft class.

5) We are set at running back. There's little point in bringing in more competition when we won't be able to keep all of our incumbents. Beast Mode is a given, but Robert Turbin's role as his backup will be contested by Christine Michael. The Aggie already runs better than Turbo, but he played sparingly, due to his shortcomings as a blocker. Presumably, Michael will have had plenty of time to learn pass protection and should be more of a factor next year. We could wind up keeping all three again.

6) We are also set at fullback. In fact, it's a serious logjam. When all three are healthy, it will be fascinating to see which two fullbacks survive the competition among veteran team leader Michael Robinson ("the Real Rob"), Derrick "Deaf Jam" Coleman and "Drunk Drivin'" Spencer Ware. Ware could still be stashed on the practice squad if he is odd man out, and if he can stay on the straight and narrow. I'd like to see Rob make the team again, if for no other reason than to keep alive my fantasy that our offense will install a fullback pass trick play for the ex-Penn State quarterback.

7) We have the most enviable quarterback situation in the league. Russell Wilson is a unique talent, an elite quarterback, and by far the the league's best bargain with a modest contract befitting his status as a projected 3rd round rookie backup. Tarvaris Jackson's respectable background as a starter makes him one of the league's best backups. Practice squad passer B.J. Daniels is a DangeRuss clone in terms of height, speed and monster college numbers, but it remains to be seen if he can make a similarly successful transition to the pro game and push T-Jack for the backup job. It wouldn't hurt to add a late-round draft pick or free agent rookie quarterback to the mix, but neither is it essential to do so, except to have extra throwing arms in training camp.

8) Anthony McCoy's return from injury means we shall have talent to spare at the tight end position. Seattle uses starter Zach Miller primarily as a blocker, failing to capitalize on his established capacity as an elite receiving tight end. Unfortunately, in all likelihood it's time for Miller to head elsewhere, unless he's willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. Seattle would be OK with McCoy, blocking specialist Kellen Davis and Luke Willson, a decent blocker who has shown dynamic potential as a receiver. However, we also have Cooper Heifet stashed on the practice squad, and Seattle recently signed Travis Beckum, free agent blocking tight end.

9) We are better off at wide receiver than the conventional wisdom would have it. Percy Harvin will dominate when healthy.Sidney Rice should have accepted a massive pay cut to stay in Seattle. He owes us. Rice has contributed when healthy, but the team has had to carry him while he missed much of the 2011 and 2013 seasons with injuries. It's hard to imagine another team paying much for an injury-prone receiver who has missed multiple games in 3 of his last 4 seasons. The impending release of Rice means we're in the market for a tall wideout to replace him, and that might be the 6'5" Chris Matthews, a Winnipeg Blue Bomber and 2012 Canadian Football League rookie of the year, who's coming off an injury-marred 2013 season. Golden Tate should settle for a reasonable salary with Seattle, because he's unlikely to develop the chemistry he has with DangeRuss anywhere else, and because he may not start if he stays. (His natural role is as a slot receiver, not a wideout.) Dawg alum Jermaine Kearse and the "Philippine Dream" Doug Baldwin add depth with starting potential. If we find great receiving talent in the draft, we could use it, but we don't need it.

10) Given that we're OK everywhere else, we can afford to devote this draft to shoring up the offensive line. Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung are the only Pro Bowlers and absolute keepers. O-line coach Tom Cable did a great job of getting decent play out of the other modest talents on this injury-wracked unit, but it's time for a literal ton of upgraded talent (that's about 6 linemen). If, in any round of the draft, there is good O-line talent available, Seattle should grab it. The only thing standing between our team and offensive greatness is the play of our offensive line. If we could build an elite O-line, then DangeRuss would post monster passing numbers like Drew Brees and Beast Mode could break the single season NFL rushing record. (If Skittles can run for 1200-1600 yards behind a good-to-average line, then he could easily beastify 2000+ yards if we could complement Okung and Unger with comparable talent.) Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a decent player who has learned to master his nasty attitude, but he needs to take a pay cut or get out of town. Right guard J.R. Sweezy is functional but not dominant. Paul McQuistan is a versatile and capable backup, but as long as he's starting, we won't have an elite O-line. James Carpenter was a first round bust at tackle and isn't very good at guard, either. He needs to step up or get cut. 2013 rookies Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie showed flashes of potential. On the bright side, Lemuel Jeanpierre is a clutch backup who filled in admirably at center when Unger was out with injury. He can play guard in a pinch as well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


It was great to see the 12th Man take over the stadium and elicit the safety suffered by Denver on the game's first offensive snap.

It was even better to see the Seahawks deliver the beatdown of Denver I dreamt of in my last post.

We original diehards have been waiting for this moment since 1976.

Let us enjoy our championship and temper the talk about repeating. We have a target on our backs going forward, we remain in the toughest division in the tougher conference, and we have our work cut out for us in terms of retaining and improving this tremendous team.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The odium that is Denver

It's a great day to be a Seahawks fan.

Last night we received confirmation that Walter Jones will be a first-ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining fellow Seahawks Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy. Big Walt was not only the greatest Seahawk in team history, he was the best offensive tackle ever to play the game. .

Tonight, Seattle faces Denver in the Super Bowl.

Thanks to the appeal of Peyton Manning and the notoriety of Richard Sherman, the Broncos appear to be America's sentimental favorite to win this game. According to a survey of social media, Denver fans outnumber Seattle fans 4-to-1.

Social Super Bowl Map

On the other hand, more people seem to be shopping for Seahawks gear...


These results may seem contradictory, but they are actually reconcilable: Seattle supporters are probably genuine fans who would be more motivated to buy team merchandise. The Broncos have genuine fans, too, but most of their support is probably soft--that is, people rooting for Denver because they want to see Richard Sherman receive his comeuppance, or because Peyton Manning is a charming pitchman with a comeback story that tugs at the heartstrings. Soft supporters typically don't buy team merchandise.

Fortunately, fan opinion doesn't decide football games. Most of the country was rooting for San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, but it was the athletes on the field and the 12th Man in the stands who determined the outcome, from Beast Mode to Doug Baldwin's superclutchness to our suffocating defense causing Colin Kaepernick to melt down and choke the game away in the 4th quarter.

Fan opinion won't decide the Super Bowl tonight, either. It was sweet to stab a figurative talon in the eyes of all of those Niner fans two weeks ago, and it will be equally sweet to do the same to all of the misguided Bronco fans today.

Everyone seems to think this will be a close game, and they may be right. This battle pits not just the best offense versus the best defense in 2013, but possibly the best offense and defense in the history of the National Football League.

But this should not be close. Denver deserves nothing less than total humiliation tonight.

That may seem harsh. Peyton seems like a good guy, but he neither needs nor deserves this win, neither to secure his legacy nor for any other reason.

The fact is that Manning has a history of working for evil men.

In Indianapolis, he served the Irsays, the clan of scoundrels who stole the Colts from Baltimore in the dark of night. It wasn't his fault that Indianapolis drafted him, but he didn't have to stay with that tainted franchise as long as he did.

When the Colts jettisoned him, Manning had an opportunity to be a Seahawk.

Instead, he chose to work for this odious villain:

John Elway Talks About Denver

Latecomers to the Seattle bandwagon may find this hard to understand, but John Elway is our nemesis.

The Seahawks shared a division with Denver from 1977-2001. As the Bronco's quarterback for most of that span (1983-99), Elway was the equine face of that rivalry.

When Chuck Knox and Dave Krieg led the team, it was a real rivalry. The Seahawks split the series with the Broncos in those years, tormenting Elway as much as he tormented us. However, when Ken Behring wrecked the team, Denver dominated us, and we wasted a misspent decade watching his hideous horseface grin with gloating glee twice a year after the Broncos trampled our hapless Hawks.

Elway is now the Broncos executive credited with reviving the team's fortunes.

We will never have an opportunity to sack or intercept him on the field, but we can begin to exact karmic equivalence by treating Manning as if he were an Elway voodoo doll.

I want the 12th Man to take over the stadium.

I want the Legion of Boom to brutalize the Bronco receiving corps and set a Super Bowl record for pick sixes.

I want our front seven to blow through their vaunted offensive line to flatten Manning and school Knowshon Moreno.

I want our O-Line to step up and take over the game.

I want Beast Mode cranked up to maximum Skittles.

I want Percy Harvin to earn a year's pay in one day.

I want the rest of our reviled receiving corps to show that they are legitimate NFL starters.

I want DangeRuss to shred the Denver D with his fleet feet and his big arm.

Send the Broncos to the glue factory.

Go, Hawks!