Friday, May 8, 2015

Offseason personnel moves

So sad to lose Max Unger, our best offensive lineman and a good team leader, despite occasional injuries.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider continue to force offensive line coach Tom Cable to work miracles. Would it kill them to draft some O-linemen in the first three rounds of the draft? Or sign a journeyman or two? Cable is a great coach who has transmuted free agents, late-round picks and college defensive lineman into Seahawk O-lines that appear serviceable only because DangeRuss is an escape artist and Marshawn Lynch only needs a few millimeters of daylight to pierce a defense and grind out some hard-won yards.

How do we ensure that acquiring All-pro tight end Jimmy Graham will be worth it? Under Carroll, tight ends have not been particularly productive in Seattle's offense. Zach Miller, a Pro Bowl pass catcher in Oakland, mostly used his great hands to block, working essentially as an extra O-linemen on most downs.

This was an option for Miller because he's an athlete who can catch well and block even better. I don't think anyone would argue that squandering Miller's receiving talents was ideal; it was what Seattle had to do to augment a subpar offensive line and fuel the running game that is the heart of our offense.

It would be undesirable and unwise to do the same with Golden Graham, who catches phenomenally well, but frightens no one as a blocker.

My humble proposal is to line up the Ginger Giant as a wideout. In New Orleans, Graham lined up as a wideout so often that he asked to be coded as a wide receiver rather than a tight end to earn higher pay if the Saints slapped him with the franchise tag.

As a wideout, Graham would have more opportunities to catch the ball, and better chances to help the running game. Although his blocking skills are poor for a tight end, they're good for a wideout. Once assigned to the position, he would instantly become the best route runner with the best hands and the perhaps even the best blocker in our receiving corps.

The move would also allow Seattle to keep other talent at the tight end position, including Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet and the talented but unlucky Anthony McCoy, who has been sidelined by two torn Achilles tendons in two years. We could even welcome back Zach Miller if he could pass a physical and accept a reasonable salary.

Speaking of reasonable salaries, Russell Wilson needs to get real in his contract negotiations. The Seahawks Way is to accept less than your market value for the privilege of playing on one of the best teams in the NFL. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are among the best in the league at their positions, but they did not cash in because they know the unique chemistry of the Legion of Boom cannot be replicated elsewhere. Once you've guaranteed several million dollars, a real chance to win championships matters much more than earning a few million dollars more. This is especially true for quarterbacks who, as the face of the franchise, have more opportunities to make money on the side.

Super Bowl XLIX, revisited

Many continue to condemn Seattle's decision to throw on second-and-goal from the one-yard line with seconds to go in the Super Bowl. That was the Diehard's knee-jerk reaction, too.

But in retrospect, it was a defensible play call. Throwing at least once made sense in terms of clock management; you probably couldn't hand off three times in a row with only twenty seconds remaining.

Moreover, throwing on second down certainly maximizes the element of surprise.

I even defend Russell Wilson's decision to throw the pass. Ricardo Lockette got about as open as a wideout can get on a goal-line slant route. Lockette is a powerful receiver with decent hands; all things being equal, he should have been able to dominate the space and catch the ball.

If DangeRuss had thrown the ball a few inches farther to the right, then it would have been a Seahawks touchdown or an incompletion.

But the real problem was that the Patriots defender sold out and jumped the route. Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler guessed correctly that Lockette was running a slant, and he won big on that high-stakes bet.

If Seattle had called a different route for Lockette--faking an inside slant and then veering back toward the outside corner of the end zone, for example--then instead of intercepting the ball, Butler would have been the goat who bit on the fake and let Lockette get wide open for the winning touchdown.

The notion that Seattle called a pass to deprive Marshawn Lynch of the winning touchdown is absurd.

The fact is that Super Bowl XLIX was a close and hard-fought contest, easily one of the most epic championship games in NFL history.

It is unfortunate that Seattle wound up on the losing side, and infuriating that it came at the hands of Bill Belicheat, Tom Shady and the Deflatriots.

If Seattle's secondary had been healthy, the game wouldn't have been close.

Despite an elbow injury, Richard Sherman played as well as ever. However, Kam Chancellor's torn MCL clearly slowed him and prevented him from dishing out normal doses of punishment to break the will of our opponents. Recovering from a dislocated shoulder made Earl Thomas mortal, too.

Even then, if Jeremy Lane hadn't suffered a freakish compound arm fracture during his interception return, Seattle still wins.

When I was poring over Seattle's inactives before the game, I remember thinking, "Why did they deactivate Marcus Burley? The Patriots are sure to throw a lot to exploit injuries to the Legion of Boom and expose our difficulty stopping tight ends and slot receivers. I think we need Burley covering slot receivers more than we need Christine Michael as a third-string running back."