This is a rematch of the 2014 Super Bowl beat down that gave the Seattle Seahawks their first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. A lot of people doubted the Seahawks going into the championship game and they proved the critics wrong winning in a decisive fashion, 43 to 8.
The Seattle Seahawks (1-1) are coming off of a disappointing loss to the San Diego Chargers in week 2. The week 2 loss saw the Seahawks having trouble on both sides of the ball. While film of last week’s debacle gives the Seahawks a teaching aide to help them correct mistakes, it also gives the defending champions a humble mindset knowing they can lose on any given Sunday.
The Denver Broncos are coming into Seattle firing on all cylinders starting off the 2014-15 NFL season 2-0. The Broncos passing game, led by Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas, looks like it’s picking up where it left off last season.
The highly anticipated week 3 Super Bowl rematch will live up to the hype but with the 12 man being a huge factor in Seattle I think the Broncos will have a terrible time communicating on the field. Also, with the Seahawks losing last weekend against the Chargers, the defense should come out fired up in trying to prove a point against the NFL’ s number 1 offense.
Prediction: Seahawks win this Super Bowl rematch 37-17.
Thankfully for all Seahawk fans I was overly scared of the Green Bay offense last week as the LOB once again exceeded my expectations and made the Packers offense look ordinary. This is no small feat, and coupled with the extra few days off after last week’s Thursday night tilt, the Hawks should be in great shape to travel down to San Diego and face the Chargers in week 2.
The Chargers are not an elite team, but they do have the ability to play up to their competition, beating the Broncos last year and playing well against most of the elite teams they faced. They played well on the road in Arizona last week, failing to close our NFC West Brothers, failing to realize multiple opportunities to seal the road victory. They are led by their offense under the control of side arm slinger Philip Rivers. Their weapons are strong with WR’s Allen & Floyd to couple with TE’s Gates & Green, and finally a solid RB tandem in Matthews & Woodhead. Rivers is a statue with limited mobility, but he generally has good awareness and gets the ball out early. Playing at home the communication issues he had at the line of scrimmage last week should be nearly eliminated, and I expect the chargers to move the ball fairly well once again focusing on the short passing game and trying to keep balance by running the ball 20-25 times in the game. I expect them to have sporadic success moving the ball, but to struggle in the red zone as the Hawks D tightens up leading to only 1 TD to go along with multiple field goals. I see Rivers throwing for 1 score to balance out with 1 int and passing for 250 yards, Matthews to run for 70-80 yards, and for their offense to generally struggle to capitalize on their ability to move the ball through the middle of the field fairly well.
On Defense the Chargers are stronger than the Packers front they faced last week, but only marginally better. I expect the Hawks offense line to struggle with the road environment coupled with strong line play from DT Liuget and DE Freeney. San Diego will focus on trying to stop the run early, then bring pressure on 3rd down to get to Russell, and I expect this strategy to work for the most part in the first half. After early struggles I expect Russell to make some big plays with his legs and buy time to find open receivers over the top as well. Wilson will finish with 250 – 275 yards passing to go along with 50 on the ground and 2 touchdowns. Lynch will punch in another score, but will be held to less than 100 yards rushing in the game. I foresee Doug Baldwin having a strong game after being quiet last week bagging a score and near 100 yards receiving.
The offense will struggle more than last week, especially in the first half only mustering 10-13 points and once again facing a close game at the break. In the second half Russell asserts himself and the offense will go on a role. The defense continues its strong play and closes out the game with 3-4 sacks to go along with two turnovers.
Football season is finally upon us with the Thursday night opener against the proud Green Bay Packers. Whether heading to Rookie’s in Columbia City, The Beachcomber in Skyway, or enjoying the opening night festivities from the comfort of home, every South Seattle resident not at the game is sure to be glued to a television screen for the return of Russell Wilson and Co.
After a somewhat uneven preseason which saw the Seahawks lose not one but two silly season games for the first time in two years there is some concern about this team’s depth compared to the last couple of years. The good news is the front line starters are healthy and almost universally played well in the preseason, particularly the offense which has been firing on all cylinders since the 2nd preseason game, and looks to have fully integrated our shiny new toy in Percy Harvin into the game plan.
In listing the current 3-4 best teams in the NFL with the Seahawks I would include the Broncos, Patriots, Saints, and these Packers in the elite category. Although this game is at home giving the Seahawks a substantial advantage, this will be a tough game with an opposing offense that is multifaceted with the ability to grind out hard yards between the tackles via Eddy Lacy, utilize the vertical passing game featuring Jordy Nelson, or focus on the short passing game with the breakaway ability in Randal Cobb. I actually believe this offense is better than the historic one Seattle faced in the Superbowl with Peyton Manning as that was a pocket passer and a fairly week running team which quickly became one dimensional. You may be able to stop one or two aspects of Green Bay’s attack, but you will not stop Aaron Rodgers completely nor their running game. I see Rodgers throwing for two scores and nearly reaching 300 yards on the day, but he will find it difficult to find explosive plays downfield limiting their scoring ability. Lacy will grind out tough yards, and will add decent receiving totals to his ground game eclipsing 100 total yards and adding a score. The national pundits will wonder what happened to Seattle’s vaunted defense as they will struggle to contain this attack, but don’t fear Seahawk fans, this defense will once again return to the premier unit in the NFL after Green Bay leaves town.
The bright side is Green Bay’s defense is not nearly as special as their offense. They have the ability to get after the passer, but are generally undersized and not great at stopping the run. As long as rookie Justin Britt can hold his own at right tackle I expect Marshawn to have a big game with over 100 yards rushing and a td or two. Russell will continue his strong preseason play, capitalizing on downfield plays in fairly limited opportunities. I expect Russell to throw for 225-250 yards and run for another 30-40 with two overall touchdowns.
I foresee a closer than expected game with Green Bay mostly content to grind out yards via the short passing game and quite a few handoffs to Lacy. In a virtual tie entering the final quarter the Seahawks defense and offense come up big once again in with a key turnover and late score to put the game out of reach.
If you are a Seahawks die hard like me you probably spent the weeks leading up to the draft looking at Mocks, reading insights about the prospects likely to be there around the end of the first round and hoping it all fell into place so that the Seahawks got a top 10 talent that somehow fell into their lap. Instead the Seahawks did what they have done for the last three years and picked individuals rated by “experts” far lower than the spots the Seahawks took them in, leaving us all running to our computers to learn about who these mysterious players are.
Full disclosure, I am no scout, and I cannot break down tape and tell you why the Seahawks took the players they did when they did. Based on their track record, I do have confidence in their ability to find underrated prospects and develop them better than any other team in the NFL. I will attempt to breakdown the draft to focus on the positions taken, how prospects in the past have fared under this coaching staff, and the likely contribution of this draft class for this season.
Wide Receiver – Seahawks took Paul Richardson in the 2nd round out of Colorado, and Kevin Norwood in the 4th round out of Alabama. They are different players with Richardson offering pure speed and over the top ability versus Norwood closely resembling Jermaine Kearse and boasting strong hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic. The only major contributor to the receiver position via the draft under John and Pete was Golden Tate, and he did not contribute much his rookie or second years in the league. With Harvin, Baldwin & Kearse locked into the top three spots both rookies won’t be relied upon for high snap counts this year. I believe Richardson will have big play opportunities, and might score 3-4 touchdowns this year in his limited opportunities, but the receiver position is generally very difficult to find immediate contributors as rookies. Expect both players to make the roster and contribute as supporting cast member this year.
Offensive Tackle – Seahawks selected Justin Britt in the 2nd round out of Missouri, and Gerrit Scott out of Marshall in the 6th round to add to the right tackle competition with 2nd year player Michael Bowie. The both possesses all the prototypical size and speed tools, and offers toughness and depth to a position in need of it. In the past the Seahawks have drafted former first round pick James Carpenter to play RT opposite Okung, but he struggled with speed on the outside and was moved inside to guard where he has struggled with injuries and been moderately successful when healthy. The Seahawks also drafted Russell Okung in 2010 as a top 10 pick, and when healthy he has played at a pro bowl level. The Seahawks have been as effective developing undrafted players, late picks, and practice squad players like Bailey, Bowie, & Giacomini at OT as they have in drafting players in the first round like Okung and Carpenter. Expect a healthy competition to exist between Britt and Bowie throughout camp, but Bowie to have the 2nd year advantage and to play significantly better in his second season winning the starting job, Scott is more a developmental prospect not likely to play this year.
Defensive Line – Seahawks selected Cassius Marsh in the 4th round out of UCLA, and Jimmy Staten out of Middle Tennessee State in the 5th round to help offset the defensive line losses of Red Bryant and Chris Clemens. Defensive line is an area the Seahawks have targeted the two prior years in 2012 draft and 2013 draft but saw little time on the field last year due to injury. I expect 2012 late round pick Greg Scruggs returning from knee surgery as well as 2013 draftees Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill will play much larger roles this year, but these two rookies have a chance to contribute this year. Rotational snaps are up for grabs due to free agency departures, but I see it more likely that the second and third year players fill these gaps and barring injury these two rookies again have minor roles to play for the 2014 season. If I have a dark horse for 2014 it would be Staten because he is such an unknown. The Seahawks have an outstanding track record of taking players late completely off the experts radar and developing them quickly in Sweezy for 2012, and TE Willson in 2013. Staten was the most off the radar pick the Seahawks made this year making him possibly the most likely to contribute early.
Linebacker – Seahawks selected Kevin Pierre-Louise in the 4th round out of Boston College to add to the outside linebacker depth. Pierre-Louise is a slightly undersized linebacker that timed the fastest 40 at the combine, and provides even more athleticism to a group that has it in spades. The Seahawks have been incredibly good at drafting linebackers to play right away in KJ Wright & Bobby Wagner, and well as developing talent over time in Superbowl MVP Malcolm Smith. The position and physical attributes match up well with Smith, and with both he and Wright approaching free agency next year Pierre-Louise is a good developmental prospect who could grow into a starter next year when budgetary decisions might have to be made. Expect Pierre-Louise to play special teams this year and limited snaps on defense as Seattle currently has 3 starting caliber outside linebackers in Smith, Wright & Irvin for only two starting jobs.
Secondary – Seahawks Selected Eric Pinkins in the 6th round out of San Diego State. He played a hybrid safety/linebacker position in college at 6’3” and 220 pounds, but due to his size and speed the Seahawks plan to convert him to CB over time. The Seahawks’ secondary is the envy of the league boasting late round developed players in Sherman, Chanceller, & Maxwell. None of these players started immediately with Sherman playing halfway into his rookie year only because of two injuries at the position in front of him. Maxwell also became a starter due to suspension and injury after two and a half years of development, but when given the chance played exceptionally well last year. Pinkins sets up to be a practice squad player based on the position switch and the depth in front of him, but could be a key player for this secondary down the road learning from the best and competing every day during practice. I don’t anticipate any contribution this year other than potentially special teams.
Fullback – Seahawks selected Kiero Small out of Arkansas in the 7th round to compete with existing fullback conversions Kevin Ware and Derrick Coleman. The past two years have seen the Seahawks take bigger running backs in Ware and Coleman and convert them to fullbacks to compete or replace Michael Robinson. Ware was hurt in the preseason last year and placed on IR, and Coleman also had a significant injury forcing management to bring Robinson back midyear. Both existing players are hybrid fullbacks with a running back history, and significant room for improvement in their fullback duties. Small in short in stature, but heavier than both Coleman and Ware, and seems to bring a natural aggression to the position. Coleman was a major contributor on special teams last year possibly making it hard to move on from him, but Small brings a skillset on offense the Seahawks don’t currently have. Expect him to make the team and possibly play a larger role than most of this draft class this year, as we attempt to re-establish our ability to consistently run between the tackles on any defense again this year.
Early 2013 draft picks barely saw the field last year due to health at their positions holding up, and a sharp learning curve for any rookie new to the NFL. The players that saw the most time were Bowie (7th round), Bailey (undrafted), and Willson (5th round), and in each case there were significant injuries to the OL and TE positions last year forcing them into action. The 2014 draft class’s contributions this season are likely to again hinge on the health of starters already on the roster, with limited apparent holes that need to be filled. The Seahawks have built one of the deeper rosters in the NFL by thinking long term in their draft approach, developing talent through excellent coaching, and embracing competition at every level of the organization. I expect we don’t hear much from this rookie class this year, but in 2015, 2016 and beyond we very well could be looking back at this draft providing multiple starters and hopefully a pro bowler or two that once again the “experts” never saw coming.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes should reincarnation be proven to be a fact.
We all know the Seahawk philosophy and method of winning games, play unmatched defense, dominate on special teams, and control the ball on offense taking your explosive shots down the field at the right times. This formula keeps the game within reach no matter what. Having said that, the most significant loss the Seahawks face in free agency is most likely Golden Tate, will the Seahawks have enough talent at Wide Out to compete for another title a year from now? I believe the answer is an emphatic yes depending upon players staying healthy for the coming year.
Pete and company believe in their players, put them in the best situation to succeed, and help them to maximize their talents, but not at the expense of the overall team concepts. Even if the Seahawks WR corps was Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and AJ Green, I don’t believe they would throw the ball 40-50 times per game, Marshawn and the running game would still be the identity of this offense. Now shake yourself out of the Johnson, Bryant & Green dream and let’s look at what the Seahawks have for the coming season and how this group of Wide Outs has the ability to be even better than last year.
2013 – Percy was penciled in to be the lead wideout, but when inflammation turned into hip surgery and he missed all but one half of the regular season as well as one and a half playoff games, the impact in 2013 was minimal (notwithstanding his electric performance in the SuperBowl).
2014 – Percy is once again tabbed to be the main guy, but his recovery appears to be nearly complete. The impact of a healthy Harvin cannot be understated, as the role he has on the game cannot be measured by stats and box scores. Hi speed and ability to run in space creates matchup problems for the defense as shown on the two WR reverses by Harvin in the big game. Towards the end of the first quarter the Hawks faked a handoff to Percy and gave the ball to Lynch, two defenders hesitated and moved in Harvin’s direction leading to running room and a first down for Lynch. In the Mic’d up tape you can hear Sherman on the sideline say, “It’s Percy, he’s got their eye”. From a defensive perspective you can see how much they have to pay attention and gameplan to stop him, if healthy he opens up opportunities for other WR’s as well as the ground game. The last bonus is Harvin’s ability to impact the game as a kick returner he is one of the best, and the Hawks struggled last year with both Kearse and Turbin fumbling prior to switch to Baldwin who was good, but not exceptional in this area.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – based on expected health of Harvin for the coming season.
2013 – Sydney Rice started the year coming of a strong 2012 and had solid moments early in 2013 including his multiple touchdown game against the Jaguars, and a beautiful touchdown early in the Cardinals game, but blew out his knee against the Rams in week 8 and did not return. The season started ominously when he missed the first week of training camp for a mysterious non-surgical procedure in Switzerland, but he never appeared at full speed.
2014 – Doug Baldwin is elevated to the #2 position for this coming season. With the injury to Percy he proved he can play outside, and he stepped up to every challenge last year. Yes, he is not your prototypical receiver being smaller than most teams are comfortable with, but he has proved durable, dependable, and has an incredible ability to come down with the ball in contested situations.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – Rice was inconsistent and injured for much of the year, Baldwin looks to improve upon his strong 2013 season.
2013 – Golden Tate started the year as the #3 wideout, and was quickly elevated due to Harvin’s injury. Golden had a very good year largely mirroring his production from 2012 when he finally broke out. He was explosive and made some sensational plays, including winning the Rams game in week 8 almost on his own accounting for all of the offenses points. He was also one of the best punt returners in the NFL routinely flipping the field in the Seahawks favor.
2014 – This position appears to fall to 2013 breakout player Jermaine Kearse. Kearse flashed in the pre-season last year, and stepped up to make big grabs with limited opportunities early in 2013 against the Panthers and Colts. With the injury to Rice his snaps increased, and he closed the season strong and played well in the playoffs culminating with the go ahead touchdown in the NFC championship game, and an incredible 4 broken tackle TD in the Superbowl.
Verdict – 2013 > 2014 – Kearse has the potential to come out on top, but Tate had a solid year that will be tough to match.
2013 – Jermaine Kearse had a breakout year and made the most of his opportunities finding the endzone at a very high rate even with limited usage the first half of the year.
2014 – Sydney Rice is back, and if his recovery proceeds he appears to have the inside track on this spot. I believe the Hawks are likely to take a WR in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, perhaps even in round 1 that can fill this role as well. Getting an athletic and dynamic playmaker that can provide big play ability is likely given the strength of talent entering the NFL via the draft this year.
Verdict – 2013 = 2014 – Kearse filled this role well in 2013, a healthy Rice or dynamic rookie have the ability to match or exceed this production.
WR Depth (5 – 7)
2013 – Lockette rejoined the Hawks during the season to improve depth, and Walters was active for a few games during the year. The Seahawks don’t run a lot of 4 or 5 wide plays as this goes away from their identity, but you need depth for injuries and the ability to put pressure on the opponents secondary by spreading them out in dime coverages when weaker opponent DBs are on the field.
2014 – Players vying for the final roster spots include either Rice or a newly drafted rookie, Lockette, Bates, Clark, Matthews (CFL), Price (Free Agent), & Walters.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – The depth of this unit would be stronger than what the Hawks had at the end of last year with Lockette playing the #4 wideout role in the Super Bowl. Depth was tested in 2013, and with injuries some of these players will play a role for the Hawks in 2014.
Verdict: 2014 = 3, 2013 = 1, Equal = 1
Tate will be missed at some point in the coming season, but the players are there now to exceed the production and efficiency of 2013. The health of Percy Harvin will determine whether this is a top ten unit in the league for 2014, or if it is more a serviceable but middle of the pack unit that is was in 2013. The main question that remains to be answered is who will be the dependable and explosive punt returner that will change momentum in 2014; but given Pete and John’s track record in the draft and player development I have little doubt they will get that figured out. Wide receiver will not be the place to hold back the Seahawks in 2014, it looks like this will be an improved and possibly exceptional unit for the coming year.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes, should reincarnation be proven to be real
In the weeks following the Seahawks’ demolition of the Denver Broncos, in what was anything but a Super Bowl, a collective anxiety seems to have stricken the entire football fan base of Seattle. The hair pulling and gnashing of teeth that’s resulted from players leaving for greener pastures, and seemingly every other NFL team loading up to knock the Hawks off the perch they now occupy, has made much of the 12th man forget that our World Champions (Admit it, you still pinch yourself at the sound of that!) are in a lot better shape than the general consensus gives them credit for. While perhaps not being as good as a prescription of Lexapro for our distressed Hawks’ lovers, here are a few practical steps that the brass has taken and still can take in order to make sure they stay on top for the foreseeable future, which may help alleviate a few worries:
Step 1 (Complete) – Get your most effective and versatile pass rusher locked up in Michael Bennett. Bennett offers value equal to the league leaders in Sacks, QB pressures, and QB knock downs. In addition he plays the run well both as a defensive end, and as a defensive tackle in passing situations making him invaluable, and without a match in free agency, or within the upcoming draft.
Step 2 – Extend Earl Thomas for 5-6 years, and make him the highest paid safety in the league (he’s earned it). Our league leading defense is enabled by the play of our two safety’s in Cam and Earl. The NFL as a whole continues to be more of a passing league, and Earl’s unmatched ability to read quarterbacks and cover ground virtually eliminated the deep passing game of opponents for the last two years. Cam was locked up and rewarded last year, Earl is priority #1 to continue this defenses’ dominance for the foreseeable future.
Step 3 – Extend Sherman 5-6 years(probably highest paid corner, but he earned it too). Sherman has unmatched production, and eliminates receivers to his side of the field. He studies like crazy, and communicates better than any corner in the league whether it is with his own teammates or he is discussing things with the opposition.
Step 4 (For 2015) – Extend Russell Wilson 5-6 years(somewhere in the top 5 highest paid). Russell is the heart and soul of the offense. It is true Beast Mode embodies the style this offense plays with, but Russell makes it all happen. He routinely makes something out of nothing, and this guy will only continue to grow and get better. As long as he is a Seahawk for the core of his athletic prime this will be a winning team.
Step 5 – Develop internally or find an effective DT to spell Mebane and McDaniel. With Red leaving and McDonald getting a new deal as well our rotation looks much thinner, but remember McDonald was released last year, and by the end of the season he had 5.5 sacks. There are too many weapons on defense for the OL to worry about, and our coaches consistently maximize the player’s potential. Look at the out of nowhere performances on defense from McDaniel, Malcolm Smith, even Maxwell at DB. All were unheard of and not counted on last pre-season to contribute to the 2013 season, and all played critical roles as the year developed.
Step 6 – Draft a high quality receiver in round 1 or 2 & bring in a mid-level veteran for competition. Bringing in Jackson from Philly would be flashy, but would tie up too much money in a de-emphasized position on this team. A solid veteran, possibly bringing back Sidney Rice if/when healthy, and a rookie to groom and develop would be upgrades to the offense the Hawks operated with for the majority of last year. Losing Tate hurts, but having a healthy year of Percy should offset his loss, the key will be actually getting a healthy year of Percy in 2014.
Step 7 – Continue to build offensive line depth. Losing Guacomini decreases the edge the line plays with, but functionally it won’t be a huge loss. Either Bailey or Bowie will be much better next year, and exhibited strong abilities to run and pass block effectively. Based on the usage last year I think Bowie has the inside track, but I like Bailey to blossom and play regularly next year as well. Adding depth and versatility via the draft in the middle rounds will be necessary.
Step 8 – Lock up Pete Carroll to a 5 year extension (Again, he’s earned it). He is one of the highest paid coaches in the league already, but he salvaged a flailing franchise and has turned around the energy, passion, skill, athleticism, and competition. For the first time in Seahawks history we are the envy of the league both for winning the Super Bowl, but for the opportunity to continue to win more Lombardi’s in the near future.
Follow these steps in the next year, and we are set up much better than the Niners to dominate for the next 4-5 years and compete for multiple Superbowls. I know it is difficult to look at the losses of Tate, Clemens, Bryant, Guacomini, Thurmond, Browner etc., but take heart, none of those players were in the top 10 total contributing players on the team, and likely not in the top 15, so although it hurts to lose them, keeping the core top players together over the long term and continuing to bring in quality young players is the key to future Hawks domination.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes, should reincarnation be proven to be real.
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle