Seattle Seahawks – Stubborn and Predictable

why

The Seattle Seahawks, picked by many this year to return to the Super Bowl, are in danger of falling short of those expectations.

One issue that can be stated very clearly is that the defense is still one of the best in the NFL and if not for them, this Seahawk team wouldn’t be much to talk about.

There are three areas on offense that I believe are the issues that are preventing the Seahawks to be great instead of just barley good.

  • Offensive Line

By now, everyone must realize just how special of a running back that Marshawn Lynch really was.  His running style hid many deficiencies the offensive line had in the past.  Because of his retirement, it shows just how bad of a decision it is that John Schneider and  Pete Carroll have made to not properly invest in the one area that is critical for all plays to succeed:  The offensive line.

The starting offensive line accounts for a mere 7% of the Seahawks salary cap.  At $10.2 million, it is the lowest in the league.  My question is that why would you go on the cheap in the one spot where any offensive play has any chance of succeeding?

The Seahawks have not, in the past three to five years, made the offensive line a priority.  It is confusing as to why Pete Carroll, whose philosophy is to run the ball, eat up the clock and play great defense.  It worked just fine when Marshawn Lynch was the running back as he gave you the luxury of having an inadequate line with his running style.

Also, because of Lynch, the passing game was successful because defenses would stack the line but would freeze on play-action passing plays which led to some big plays downfield.

Tom Cable, the offensive line coach of the Hawks, stated back I August that he feels this is one of his favorite lines he’s coached.  That they have some good players that have a chance to develop and be good NFL linemen.

That’s just great…meantime, after 7 games, the offense is averaging an anemic 81.4 yards per game, 28th in the NFL, and have had only 2 rushes longer than 20 yards.

They are better in the passing game, ranked 14th in the NFL at 258.4 yards per game but that’s only because they can’t run the ball.

And they cannot get the ball into the end zone where they are 29th in the NFL at 18.7 points per game.

  • Jimmy Graham

We gave up a very good center in Max Unger to get Jimmy Graham and yet the Seahawks have not found a way to use him.  In his 5 years with the New Orleans Saints, Graham averaged 77.2 receptions per year, 950.4 yards per year, 12.2 yards per catch and 10.2 touchdowns per season while playing an average of 15.6 games each year.

In comparison to his 1-1/2 years in Seattle, he has averaged 39 catches per year, 532 yards per year, 13.7 yards per catch and a measly 1.5 touchdowns per year.  It is inconceivable to me that the Seahawks, who brought Graham in to be more of a red zone threat, don’t throw to him more often.

A friend of mine wants some reporter to ask Pete Carroll in one of the press conferences he uses is why can’t you use Jimmy Graham correctly?  If Pete can’t answer the question, then we should trade Graham to get either multiple picks to use on the offensive line or for a good left tackle.

Which brings into light Russell Wilson.  While Wilson has made some great plays, he doesn’t appear to have the ability to throw receivers open and does not have the confidence in his arm to throw into traffic.  Drew Brees utilized Graham’s 6-7, 265 lbs. body perfectly, throwing to areas that only Graham could get to using his basketball skills.

Case in point, during the last game against the Saints and the last drive of the game, Graham was thrown a pass from Wilson that was at his waist.  Graham made the catch but had to slow down to adjust for it and was tackled when he could have made it into the end zone.  Brees would have thrown that pass above Graham’s head and in stride to allow Graham to walk into the end zone.

My suggestion on how to get Graham more involved?  That leads to the third area:

  • The Play Calling of Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell

When Marshawn Lynch was here, Bevell’s job was much easier as was Tom Cable’s.

But Lynch is gone and now the limitations of Bevell’s play calling is evident.  His refusal (or is it Pete Carroll’s refusal?) to take shots downfield and rely on an anemic running game is becoming laughable.

My suggestion to Bevell and to Pete Carroll is to move Jimmy Graham out to wide receiver and with Luke Willson injured, start either Nick Vannett or Brandon Williams at TE.  This will give the Seahawks a big bodied receiver on the outside who can run a 4.5 forty up against smaller cornerbacks and safeties.

It also helps improve the offensive line with a better blocking tight end, more chances for Doug Baldwin in the slot and you can either place Jerome Kearse, another big receiver or Tyler Lockett as a burner down the field.

This would also help the running game as linebackers would need to drop back into more coverage and not allow defenses to stack the line to stop the run.  And both Williams and Vannett can be used on TE screens just to make it that much more difficult for defenses to know what the Hawks are going to do.

I think that Bevell can be the right play caller for the Hawks.  But he needs to convince Carroll, if they are going to continue down this path of spending the least amount of money on the offensive line, then they need to give that line all the help they can.

The Seahawks need to do something.  Relying on the defense to keep them in and hope the offense to pull some miracle each game is no way to run a football team.

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.

Detroit Lions – Hot Looking Muscle Car With A 4-Cylinder Engine

Roaring Lion

I had planned on writing an article full of statistical information that would show that the Detroit Lions really aren’t as bad as their 1-3 record would indicate.

Unfortunately, the stats wouldn’t help me out.  Outside of some decent offensive stats, the rest of it shows they are really that bad, mainly the defense:

  • Lower quarter of the NFL in yards allowed
  • Lower half of total points per game and average points allowed per game
  • 31st in 3rd down efficiency, allowing opposing teams to keep the chains moving 47% of the time

Despite last year’s second half surge that once again teased us die-hard Lions fans there was hope, they have once again slipped back in to a role that is uncomfortably comfortable for them:  An underachieving NFL football team.

I look at the Lions year after year and the only metaphor I can come up with is they are a 1957 Chevy Nomad.  Each year, they come out looking good and giving us hope.  Problem is that someone long ago, replaced the Super Turbo Fire V8, 283 cubic inches of 283 horsepower of Detroit power with a Subaru 360 cc two cylinder engine with an output of 36 horses.

Granted, GM Bob Quinn needs some time to right the ship.  This is his first year and he inherits a long-term legacy of years and years of failure and heartbreak.  We can’t have expected Quinn to wave his magic Bill Belichick wand and all of a sudden the Lions become the New England Patriots of the NFC North.

I suppose we need to have a dose of reality here:  It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  And perhaps that was Quinn’s plan when he decided to keep the coaching staff in place instead of cleaning house.  Instead of once again bringing in yet another set of coaches and yet another set of offensive and defensive philosophies, he wants to evaluate just what he has.

Belichick has had only one losing season since he took over the Patriots.  They went 5-11 in 2000…since then 182-58, winning over 75% of their games.  They have been in the playoffs every year since 2001, winning the Super Bowl 4 times in 6 appearances.

The Lions?  Since 2001, the Detroit Lions have had 7 head coaches with a record of 78-62 and winning just about 32% of their games.  Two playoff appearances and in both times, never made it past the first round.

There have already been rumblings in the Lion nation calling for Quinn to get rid of current head coach Jim Caldwell and rightfully so.  I don’t believe Caldwell has the chops to bring this team from it’s decades of mediocrity and make it a perennial play-off contending team.  The Indianapolis Colts  team he took to the Super Bowl in 2009, he inherited from Tony Dungy.

I think we need to be patient with one Mr. Quinn.  I got a feeling that Caldwell, if he does last the year, will be replaced with perhaps New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who has done wonders over the first 4 games sans Tom Brady.

McDaniels may keep Jim Bob Cooter has the offensive coordinator but one never knows when a new head coach comes in.  Cooter has a great rapport with QB Matthew Stafford and has Stafford performing at a very high and consistent level.  And their offensive philosophies a very similar.

But what of the defense?  Teryl Austin is a very good defensive coordinator.  But the failures of the defense reflects on him.  In fact, the failures of the defense reflect on what is wrong with the Lions.

Other options for head coach:

Sean McDermott – Defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers:  Panthers defense has been rated near the top for the past 3 years.  Could be the shot in the arm the Lions need to bring them to respectability

Darrell Bevell – Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks:  Bevell has been on the short list for several head coaching spots over the last few years.  Not sure what the issue has been for teams to not pull the trigger.  One rumor is teams aren’t sure he can handle the responsibility of running an entire team.  Detroit could give him the opportunity he needs to prove that he can.

Teryl Austin – Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions:  Despite the current regression of his defense, Austin is ready for the top job.  If Caldwell is let go during the season, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Austin becomes the interim head coach which would allow him to prove himself he can do the job.  If the Lions do cut ties with Caldwell, I’d like to see them do sooner rather than later so Austin can get as many games as he can to prove himself.

Matt Patricia – Defensive Coordinator, New England Patriots:  Another Belichick protégé and one Quinn may consider if McDaniels withdraws his name from consideration.  However, he looks like a bit of a wild man on the sidelines and many owners want their head coaches to have a more “corporate” look when roaming the sidelines.  Lions have had their share of corporate looking head coaches, maybe a wild man is what they need.

Kyle Shanahan – Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons:  Just 36 years old, he already has 9 seasons of being an offensive coordinator and has done some great work with quarterbacks.  He has proven himself enough to step out of the shadows of his father, Mike Shanahan.

Jim Schwartz – Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles:  A real longshot and to date, he would be the first ex – Detroit Lions head coach to get another shot.  He did some good things when he was with the Lions but I think he go shafted.  Perhaps with a better GM, like Bob Quinn, he’d get the players needed to be successful.  But I think the Lions nation would react negatively and the last thing the Lions need is bad feelings from the fans.

Pretty sad that only 4 games into a season and there is already talk of finding a new head coach.  Even if Caldwell can right the ship, I still think he’s the wrong guy for the job.  He’s too much of a technician and relies way too much on the percentages.  We need a coach who will take chances and be ruthless and keep up constant pressure on opposing teams.

Will the Lions ever have success again?  Hard to say.  But there is hope, right?  I mean the Chicago Cubs just might get to the World Series for the first time in 107 years.

Good God, I hope we don’t have to wait that long for the Lions to win a Super Bowl!