Category Archives: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks – What To Do With Jimmy Graham

There has been a lot of questions on Jimmy Graham.  How to use him? Should the Seahawks trade him?  Should the Seahawks cut their losses and let him go?  Why isn’t he targeted in the Red Zone?  Why isn’t he as productive as he was when he was with the Saints?

The most intriguing question of all of these is how to use Graham.  It was well known when Graham came to the Seahawks that blocking wasn’t his forte.  Catching the ball and scoring touchdowns is what made him one of the best tight ends in football.

But let’s think about how New Orleans used Graham in their offense.  In 2013, Graham had 86 receptions, 16 TD’s, averaged 14.1 yards per catch and 76 yards per game.  67% of the time during the season, the Saints lined him up as a wide receiver to take advantage of the mismatches created lining up against smaller cornerbacks instead of linebackers.  Doing this gave the Saints an absolutely lethal weapon in the Red Zone.

Remember, after the 2013 season, the Saints wanted to place the franchise tag on Graham as a tight-end.  Graham argued that he had more snaps as a wide receiver and should be paid accordingly.  He even forced an NFL arbitrator to rule on the dispute.  He lost and the Saints were able to franchise him at the tight-end level which paid significantly less than wide receiver.

That aside, let’s talk about how Drew Brees threw to Graham in the five years they were teammates.  Brees took advantage of Graham’s 6-7″ height, his 6-7″  wingspan and his 10″ hands along with his 3′ vertical jump and threw passes that only he could go and get.  Let’s also remember that Graham was an outstanding basketball player and was a fierce rebounder so going up and fighting for passes was second nature to him.

How do the Seahawks use him?  As a traditional tight-end that needs to block in a run-first offense.

Yes, I know that Graham finished with nearly a 923 yards last season along with 6 TD’s.  But a lot of those yards were when the Hawks were behind or the game was out of hand.

With the Saints, Graham’s 5 years stats were outstanding.  His average for each category:

Receptions-77.2  Yards per Season-950.4  Yards per Catch-12.18  Yards per Game-60.52  Touchdowns per Year-10.2

In his two years with the Seahawks, there is a significant drop in several categories, based on the average with each team:

Receptions:  56.5 (-20.7)  Yards per Season-764 (-186) Yards per Catch-13.4 (+1.22) Yards per Game-60.52 (-4.17) Touchdowns per Year-4 (-6.2)

How should the Seahawks use Jimmy Graham?  In my opinion, make him a wide receiver.  You say he doesn’t have the speed?  Between 2008 and 2012, the average 40-yard dash times for wide receivers was 4.55 seconds.  Graham’s time in the 40?  4.53 seconds so he has the speed.

The average height of an NFL cornerback is 5’10” tall.  At 6’7″, to go along with his leaping ability and huge wingspan, having him at wide receiver would be a huge mismatch, something that NFL offensive coordinators look for in every situation.  And with his rebounding experience from basketball and his 10″ hands, he will win more battles for the ball than lose them.

What does this do for the Seahawk offense?  Quite a bit actually.  It can still be a run first team if that’s what they want.  But consider when they do have to go to a 3 or 4 wide receiver set in long yardage situations.   Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham out wide with Tyler Lockett and/or Doug Baldwin in the slots.  You can’t double team any of the receivers because all can catch the ball and all can create havoc after the catch.  You would force the defense to drop eight and if by some chance all of the receivers are covered, there is 3rd down specialist C.J. Prosise out of the backfield.

Added bonus to that is you get a real tight end in Luke Willson and Nick Vannett in the offense who can actually, you know, block and help the offense line in the run game.

Don’t like any of those options?  Then I suggest you do what Jim Moore of 710 Sports says:  Trade him for a top tier offensive lineman or multiple high round draft picks to use for the offensive line.  I couldn’t agree more with Jim Moore on this.  I also agree with Moore on getting sick and tired of hearing about Graham’s potential when the Seahawks don’t know how to use him, in particular, Russell Wilson.  If you watch game tapes of when Graham was with the Saints, Drew Brees put it in places that only Graham could get.  He threw it up high over the defender’s heads and let Graham’s basketball instincts take over.

Wilson?  Throws passes at Graham’s hips and knees where they are difficult to catch and in the reach of anyone covering Graham.  And don’t give me that crap that Wilson is too short to find Graham.  Brees is only 6’0″ tall, just an inch taller than Wilson.  While Wilson may have the better arm between the two, I’d be inclined to take Brees in a 2-minute drill simply because he knows how to use the weapons he has…and he used Graham brilliantly.

Graham was brought to Seattle specifically to improve scoring in the Red Zone.  In 2015, Graham’s first year here, the Hawks were 16th in the NFL in Red Zone scoring.  Last year, the dropped to 25th.  The Saints, over the same 2 years were 9th in 2015 and 3rd in 2016.  So it’s not just Graham, it’s the plays.  Over the past 10 years, New Orleans has been in the top 10 in Red Zone scoring except one year:  2010.

Seattle, in that same 10 year span, has been in the top 10 only once:  2007.  So let’s not put the lack of Red Zone production all on Jimmy Graham or Russell Wilson.  Let’s look at the consistently unimaginative play calling in that area by the offense coordinators…and since 2011, that falls on the shoulders of Darrell Bevel.  Comes up with some nice play designs between the 20’s but once in the Red Zone, he will switch to conservative play calling that leads to field goals instead of touchdowns.

I like Jimmy Graham but the Seahawks are wasting him…either move him to wide receiver and create the mismatches that all NFL coaches crave for or trade him to shore up the offensive line.

Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Line Has To Play Better

Seahawk Shining

There is a saying about the three most important things when you want to open a business:  Location, location, location.

Pretty much the same thing can be said if an NFL football team needs to be successful:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line.

I watched the Seattle Seahawk-Arizona Cardinal game Saturday and I was amazed at just how the Cardinal defense dominated the Hawks offensive line in the first half:  QB Russell Wilson sacked 5 times and under constant pressure.  34 plays run by the Seahawks in the first half and of those, 19 of them resulted in no gain, yards lost or a turnover.  One yard of offense in the first quarter and a total of just 94 yards for the first half.  A total of seven plays run inside Arizona’s 10-yard line and failed to punch it in and having to settle for a field goal.

While everything appeared to improve in the second half, I still am having a hard time as to why the O-Line has been so inconsistent.  How can they look so pitiful as they did in the first half and then seem to become above average as they did in the second half?

The play of the Seahawks offensive line is what will determine how well they will do in the playoffs.  And since we don’t know which O-Line will show up, us Seahawk fans are going to be sitting on pins and needles when the playoffs start.

It was evident what the Cardinals wanted to do with Russell Wilson.  Keep him in the pocket and do not allow him to extend plays.  You could see the Cardinal defense swing out wide when rushing the QB, daring him to run up the middle.  On most of Wilson’s sacks, at least two of the offensive linemen had blown their assignments.

I understand that Seattle GM John Schneider had to make a decision when building this team that somewhere on this team, money just could not be spent.  As of right now, the Seahawks have the lowest salary cap for the offensive line at $6, 259,177.  That’s nearly $7 million dollars less than the next lowest team, the New York Giants.

Tom Cable may be just about the best offensive line coach in the NFL.  But as with any profession, you are only as good as the ingredients you are given.

Let’s start with left tackle George Fant.  Amazing potential and has indeed come a long way this year.  But understand you are protecting your most valuable asset with a guy that didn’t start in a football game since his 8th grade elementary season.  He focused on basketball in his high-school days and had a decent collegiate season for Western Kentucky.  He was finally convinced to try football as he had a wife and child to consider.  He was either going to play basketball in Poland or hopefully play in the NFL.  He had no tape, barley any game footage but during a workout with the Seahawks, Cable saw him as a “long-armed athlete” and was convinced he would be a great prospect.

I am amazed at Fant’s production and improvement and I think he will be an excellent left-tackle.  What I fear is that with all that Cable is teaching him, when it comes time for a new contract, he’ll be gone since the Hawks won’t want to spend the money.

Center Justin Britt seems to have found a place that he can succeed at.  He was drafted by the Hawks in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.  He was a starter the last two years at Missouri playing  both left and right tackle.  Seahawks love versatility and saw Britt as a possible right tackle and was the starter there for the Hawks in 2014.  Despite being ranked as one of the worst rookie pass blocking tackles, Britt started all 16 games at right tackle and the divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers before suffering an injury.

After a poor showing in the 2015 season at right tackle, Hawks moved him to left guard.  Britt improved a bit, starting all 16 games at left guard but still was ranked as one of the least effective pass blockers in the NFL.  In 2016, Britt was moved to center and his game improved dramatically…so much that he was elected as a Pro-Bowl alternate for 2016.  Pete Carroll stated that center is what they had in mind for Britt when they drafted him 2 years prior.  My question is why the heck did they want so damn long?  Max Unger was at center in 2014, Britt’s first year.  Why didn’t they have him back up Unger the first year, get him to learn all the tricks of the trade from him and then have him start at center in 2015 and just leave him there?

The Seahawk offensive line is young with an average age of 24.2 years old.  I don’t have issues with the age factor but I do have an issue with the talent level.  Seahawks have been known to find some gold at other positions.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Tyler Lockett are proof of that.

They need to find the same gold for the offensive line coming up in next years draft.  I’m willing to keep Fant as left tackle as I believe he will become one of the best in the game.  I also will concede the center spot to Britt.  Anyone who can improve to Pro-Bowl caliber is just fine in my book.  But that leaves the 2 guard spots and the right tackle.  Starter left guard Mark Glowinski, starter right guard German Ifedie with back up at both spots of Rees Odhiambo don’t give me a feeling of security, especially when playing against huge defensive lines such as the Cardinals.  Right tackle starter Bradley Sowell and back-up Garry Gilliam are at best a couple of back-ups on other teams.

Release or trade guards Glowinski and Ifedie as well as right tackle Sowell and keep Odhiambo and Gilliam for back-up spots on the line.

Then I would go after these players in the draft:

For right tackle:  Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell.  Another player with a background in basketball, Davenport is 6-7 and 315 lbs.  He has the tools to be a solid left tackle and would be able to develop his skills on the right side.  Good versatility as both he and Fant could play either tackle spot.

Left guard:  Kareem Are, Florida State.  This is a big man.  Listed at 6-6 and 334 pounds, Are would be just the road grader needed to jump start the Hawks running game.  He is an excellent power blocker at the point of attack and with Cable coaching, he will only improve on his pass blocking.

Right guard:  Taylor Moton, Central Michigan.  Another big presence inside.  Coming in at 6-5 and 326 pounds, he would help solidify the inside running game the Hawks so desperately need.  He is versatile enough to be able to play right tackle as well.

Remember the three things needed to be a successful NFL team:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line!

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.

Seahawks – Critical Games for 2016 Season

Cool Seahawk Logo

With the NFL pre-season underway, I thought I would take a peek at the regular season schedule and check for 6 critical games for the Seahawks.

Week 2 – at LA Rams

No matter what record the Rams have, they always seem to give the Seahawks fits.  This will be the home opener for the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum.  Rams last played in LA in 1994 so you know they are going to be hyped up.  Jeff Fisher always has a trick or two up his sleeve so Hawks need to be prepared for that.  I think a heavy does of Christian Michael and Thomas Rawls will be on the menu as well as some play-action fakes to keep the Ram defense honest.  As always, the game will be close and a win here is critical for both teams.

Week 3 – San Francisco 49’rs

I do believe the rivalry will be re-ignited with the presence of Chip Kelly, the new head coach for San Francisco.  And I really hope the Seahawks just pound the living snot out of the 49’rs to wipe that condescending and  smarmy expression off Kelly’s face.  San Fran isn’t much of a threat to the Hawks but they still need to remain wary.  Pretty sure (about 90% sure) this will be a win for the home team.

Week 7 – at Arizona Cardinals

A lot of mutual respect between the Hawks and the Cards.  Good, hard-nosed football between 2 innovative coaches who put faith in the players to perform rather than a system.  Toss up as to who will win but it won’t be by more than a field goal.  Depending on the standings, this could decide the NFC West despite having eight games left in the season.

Week 10 – at New England

Seahawks need to control their emotions because if they use revenge as a motive to try and beat New England, that’s just what Bill Belichick wants them to do.  Master of mind games, he will use that motivation to force the Hawks into mistakes.  Hawks defensive line needs to pressure Brady as much as they can and the secondary must have an exceptional game covering those pesky receivers that Brady throws too underneath.  They need to make Brady throw before he wants to.  They may get one or two sacks but if they can pressure him, they can force him to make bad throws.  I, as much as any Seahawk fan, would love if the Hawks can steal a victory here but they have to play smart and not get caught up in getting revenge for them stealing a Super Bowl from us.

Week 13 – Carolina Panthers

You don’t think the Seahawks watched Super Bowl 50 and took notice what the Broncos did to make Newton pout like a baby?  Look for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to pressure and contain Newton as well as Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel to come up the gut and get in his face.  I also see Frank Clark being a difference maker as he has the speed and strength to deal with Newton if he tries to take off and run.  It will come down to defense vs. defense and a last second field goal.

Week 17 – at San Francisco

One can only hope the Seahawks have secured their playoff spot by the time they get to San Francisco because you know darn well that Chip Kelly will want to end the season with a win over a division rival.  Regardless of where the Hawks are at by the end of the season, a sweep over the 49’rs is always sweet (it was sweetest when Harbaugh was there, right?) and would put a nice finish to the regular season.

Looking forward to hearing a lot of fireworks going off after every game.  The 12’s are some of the greatest fans in the NFL.

Go Hawks!

Beer Thinker NFL Predictions – Who Is Going to Finish Where

I have been writing a lot about politics and civil issues and the more I write about it, the more angry I get.  So I decided to get back to why I really created this site for…to write about sports.  And what better subject than predicting how each team in their respective division will finish.

AFC East:

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. New York Jets
  4. Miami Dolphins

So now that Tom Brady has decided not to further challenge is part in “Deflategate,” he will accept the 4-game suspension.  How will this affect the Patriots?  Not too much.  Jimmy Garoppolo will take the snaps for these first four games.  Patriots start the season on the road against the Arizona Cardinals then the next three at home against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills.  Worst case scenario, I see the Pats going 2-2 but being undefeated in their own division with wins over the Dolphins and Bills.  Realistically, they go 3-1 with the sole loss at Arizona.

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. Cleveland Browns

The Bengals took the AFC North last year with a 12-4 record.  They actually beat the Steelers 16-10 in Pittsburgh in November but faltered at home in December losing at home 33-20 and folding again against the Steelers in the Wild Card game 18-16.  Granted the Bengals didn’t have Andy Dalton but I am not sure that would have helped.  Until the Bengals can prove they can perform under pressure, the Steelers are going to be the big kid in the sandbox.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Oakland Raiders
  3. San Diego Chargers
  4. Denver Broncos

Despite the fact Kansas City finished last year at 11-5, they went 1-1 in the playoffs, routing the Texans 30-0 but losing the Divisional game against the Patriots, 27-20.  Andy Reid has a great regular season record going 161-110 over the past 17 years.  However, he has gone 11-11 in that same time frame but never being able to win the big games.  2016 could see the Chiefs in the Super Bowl but can Reid show he can win it?  Denver will finish no better than.500…and yes, I may have picked them last just because I have an intense dislike for them.  Still, too many questions on offense and I see a 7-9 season despite that great defense.

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

Texans are favored this year with the signing of QB Brock Osweiler to win the division though it is doubtful the Texans will get past the Divisional playoffs.  Colts will have a healthy Andrew Luck back in the mix but if the offensive line play doesn’t improve, it could be hard going.  Jacksonville will surprise a lot of teams and might sneak in the playoffs.  Long shot will be the Titans but with the addition of DeMarco Murray will make them competitive.

NFC East

  1. New York Giants
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Washington Redskins
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East is competitive again.  The Redskins won the East last year with a 9-7 record but I don’t think that will cut it this year.  The Giants will be with a rookie head coach in Ben McAdoo and have the inside track after spending big on free agents.  General Manager used more than $10 million to bolster the defense on Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Oliver Vernon.  Despite going 4-12 last year, the Cowboys are right behind the Giants to win the East.  Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are coming back healthy and adding running back Alfred Morris gives them a shot.  And while the Redskins did win the division last year, the other rival teams did better in the offseason.  Sam Bradford is back with the Eagles but defense still has major holes.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Panthers
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. Minnesota Vikings
  4. Chicago Bears

I really hope the Lions prove me wrong and run away with the North.  They have lost Calvin Johnson but Golden Tate is poised to step in as the number one receiver and the addition of Marvin Jones, still have a credible deep threat.  If Matthew Stafford can come close to how he played in the 2nd half of last year, the Lions are a legitimate threat.  Theo Riddick will play a huge part in that success.  Packers are always going to be in contention as long as Aaron Rogers stays healthy.  The Vikings are a team on the rise as Teddy Bridgewater continues to mature as an NFL quarterback.  Adrian Peterson will still need to carry the team.  I picked the Bears last because, well, they are the Bears.

AFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Los Angles Rams
  4. San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks may have lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement but they do have three running backs that will be very, very hard to stop.  Thomas Rawls will take the place of Lynch as the bruiser to wear down defenses and is a threat to break off long gains.   Alex Collins will be used to push Rawls and will get a lot of carries.  C.J. Prosise is a former wide receiver and will be a huge 3rd down threat out of the back field and can flat out fly.  As for receivers, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Locket will drive defenses nuts.  On the defensive side, strong as ever despite the loss of Bruce Irvin.  Cardinals are pretty much the same team as they were last year.  But defenses are going to do whatever they can to get to Carson Palmer because as goes Palmer goes the Cardinals.  Rookie QB Todd Gurley will make rookie mistakes but for the most part, if he can be protected and the defense stays strong, the Rams could contend.  49ers have a lot of work to do to become contenders again and Chip Kelly will need at least a couple of years to bring them up.

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers
  2. Atlanta Falcons
  3. New Orleans Saints
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Panthers have mostly kept their roster intact from their 15-1 2015 season and should be in good shape to take their 2nd straight division title.  I am not a fan of Cam Newton but I cannot deny that he has done some good things with the Panthers.  Defense is still strong and will keep them in games.  The Falcons made some good moves in free agency, the best pick-up being WR Mohamed Sanu to take pressure off Julius Jones.    Running back Doug Martin stayed with the Bucs and the Saints picked up Nick Fairley and Coby Fleener.  But the Saints are getting old and Drew Brees and the Saints will more than likely not make the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

Beer Thinker’s Mock Draft For Seattle Seahawks

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Since I did a draft analysis on the Detroit Lions, I figure it’s only fair that I do one for the Seattle Seahawks.

They have had some great drafts over the past few years, picking up some quality players and some great production from late round draft picks.  Did anyone figure in 2012 that he would become a Super Bowl champion in 2013?  Especially after signing Matt Flynn to a $20.5 million dollar contract who everyone thought he was going to be the starter.  But once Wilson won the job outright, Seahawks traded Flynn to the Oakland Raiders for a 2014 5th round pick and a conditional 2015 pick.

Once of many moves in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era that paid off handsomely.  Can they do it again this year?  I sure hope so.  A lot of the moves that have been made were at the cost of the offensive line.  True, they came together last year in the second half of the season but I’m pretty sure that during that first half, when they allowed 37 sacks in the first half, no one could envision Russell Wilson finishing the season let alone get into the playoffs.

Seahawks need, outside of an offensive line, is cornerback & defensive line.  I’m offering three options in each round but knowing the Seahawks, I’ll probably be off by quite a lot.

Round 1, Pick 26

  1. Eli Apple – CB, Ohio State: 6-0, 199lbs.
  2. William Jackson – CB, Houston: 6-0, 189lbs.
  3. Jack Conklin – OT, Michigan State: 6-5, 308lbs.

Seahawks have capable starter opposite Richard Sherman in DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane.  But injuries have plagued the right corner slot and FA Brandon Browner, while he knows the system, isn’t the answer.  Apple or Jackson can push Shead and Lane for the starting spot.  But, with the need to upgrade the offensive line, if Jack Conklin is there, Hawks should take him and forget about the LT spot for the next 10 years.  Alvin Bailey is capable at LT but isn’t the long term solution.

Round 2, Pick 56

  1. Jason Spriggs – OT, Indiana: 6-5, 301lbs
  2. Kenny Clark – DT, UCLA: 6-2, 314lbs
  3. Austin Johnson – DT, Penn State: 6-4, 314lbs

If the Hawks are lucky enough to get Conklin in the first round and Spriggs with their second pick, I would say they solved their O-Line issues.  Spriggs would be a great addition to the line and can push current starter Garry Gilliam for the RT spot.  Clark and Johnson are two good run-stoppers and can push the pile back.  Either one would give the Hawks the depth they like on the D-Line.

Round 3, Pick 90

  1. Yannick Ngakoue – OLB/DE, Maryland:  6-2, 252lbs
  2. Joshua Garnett – Guard, Stanford: 6-5, 325lbs
  3. Jacoby Brissett – QB, NC State: 6-3, 231lbs

Ngakoue could be the Bruce Irvin answer for the Hawks.  He is a hybrid football player who is fast with a 4.75 40 time and is slippery with an ability to get involved with plays even while being blocked.  Garnett is a big bodied guard and with Sweezy one in free agency, could be the answer at RG and open holes for Thomas Rawls.  Tavaris Jackson, while a great presence in the locker room, is getting on in years.  Brissett could be another 3rd round find for Schneider.

Round 4, Pick 124

  1. Vadal Alexander – G/OT, LSU: 6-5, 326lbs
  2. KJ Dillion – S, West Virginia: 6-0, 210lbs
  3. Bronson Kaufusi – DE, BYU: 6-6, 285lbs

This is where Hawks start to look for depth.  However, while Alexander needs some work on pass protection, he is already a pretty good run blocker.  Imagine him as LG next to Conklin at LT.  A lot a beef on the left side to protect Wilson’s blind side.  Kam Chancellor is starting to break down and why wouldn’t he with the way he plays?  Need to have a player in his style so we don’t lose a step and Dillion could be that guy.  Kaufusi would give a lot of QB’s some sight problems with his wingspan and again, would add a lot of depth to the defensive line.

Round 5, Pick 171

  1. Jake McGee – TE, Florida: 6-5, 252lbs
  2. Geronimo Allison – WR, Illinois: 6-3, 196lbs
  3. Rees Odiambo – Guard, Boise State: 6-3, 314lbs

As of right now, Luke Willson is your starting TE with Cooper Helfet and Chase Coffman as back-ups.  It is unknown if Jimmy Graham can come back from his horrific knee injury.  Pete Carroll stated that Graham’s surgery went well but if he does come back, can we expect the same player that he was.  I doubt it because when knees start to go, it naturally limits movement.  Jake McGee is no Jimmy Graham but he would probably be the best blocking TE the Hawks have had in a while.  Allison is a big target but a little light at 196lbs and being 6-3.  Like to see him add at least 25 lbs. since he will need guile and finesse since speed is an issue.  He gets up for passes and blocks well on the edge.  Odiambo would add some much needed depth on the O-Line.

Round 6, Pick 215

  1. Jack Allen – Center, Michigan State: 6-1, 294lbs
  2. Brandon Allen – QB, Arkansas: 6-1, 214lbs
  3. Tyler Johnstone – OT, Oregon: 6-5, 301lbs

Patrick Lewis stabilized the O-line when he took over the starting center spot in the 2nd half of the season.  Back-up Jeanpierre is better suited as a guard so bringing in Allen to back-up Lewis would give the Hawks some flexibility and still have good depth at center with Jeanpierre as the 3rd option.  Allen would give the Hawks a younger back-up than Jackson and plays similar to starter Russell Wilson.  He comfortable under center and does well on bootlegs and rollouts.  But he tends to take hard hits on runs and doesn’t do well on long passing down situations.  Johnstone showed some good athleticism before a knee injury and scouts hope he gets that back.  Plays hard to the whistle and can finish blocks.  Could be a sleeper pick in the draft.

Round 7, Pick 225

  1. Joe Haeg – G/OT, North Dakota State: 6-6, 304lbs
  2. Jarred Norris – ILB, Utah: 6-2, 240lbs
  3. Jason Fanika – DE, Utah: 6-1, 276lbs

When drafting 7th rounders, it would be a surprise to find starters.  So if these players make the team, it’s most likely for depth or special teams.  Haeg is an interesting player as he is graded on NFL.com at 5.29, not bad for a projected 7th round pick.  He played both tackle spots and has good lateral quickness.  What gets him is getting caught on the balls of his feet in pass protection.  Would be a project for Tom Cable.  Norris is a team leader which would be great on special teams.  He has good reactive instincts and has a good feel for what running lanes opposing running backs will take.  Needs to work on staying low and not exposing his chest when taking on second-level blockers  Fanika would be a good situational player as he is able to get low and work under opponents pads to gain leverage at point of attack.  But with average speed, he tends to lunge to make tackles in open space.

Round 7, Pick 247

  1. Isaac Seumalo – Center, Oregon State: 6-5, 297lbs
  2. DeWayne Washington – RB Washington, 6-2, 226lbs
  3. Ted Karras – Guard, Illinois: 6-4, 307lbs

Seumalo would bring some good versatility along with adding depth to the O-line.  He has played center, right tackle, left tackle and right guard.  He has quick feet and above average lateral movement.  Good understanding of footwork and angles to secure running lanes and is a patient blocker.  Needs to add some mass to play in the NFL.  Washington has that rate combination of size and speed…kicks it into another gear when he hits the second level.  Former wide receiver can overmatch most linebackers in coverage.  Has a long stride which makes him struggle making quick cuts.  Will run up blockers backs rather than go between the tackles.  Also needs to work on ball security.  Karras has some football lineage including being the great nephew of Pro Bowler Alex Karras.  Four year started at Illinois at right guard, he uses brute upper body strength to get defenders turned.  Gritty demeanor on the field and is very intense on game day but stays within himself being penalized only twice over the past two seasons.

As I look back over this, I wonder:  What are the Seahawks going to do?

Guess we’ll find out draft weekend!

Go Hawks!

Seahawks Season Ends With Loss to Panthers 31-24

We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time….Vince Lombardi.

I use the quote by the great Vince Lombardi because it is the perfect metaphor for the game they played against the Carolina Panthers…they just ran out of time.

This game was an example of how the season went.  Giving up 31 points in the first half seemed like a very deep hole to dig out of but the resiliency of this team showed they just don’t give up.

But there is a reason why the Carolina Panthers are a 15-1 team.  They took care of business early on with Washington native Jonathon Stewart ripping off a 75 yard run on the first play of the game to set up the first Carolina touchdown.

The defense came up big on the very next series when Luke Kuechly picked off an ill-advised Russell Wilson pass and ran it in for a pick six to go up 14-0 barley four minutes played.

And the Panthers continued to pour it on, scoring 17 more points in the second quarter.

But the Seahawks regrouped in the second half.  The defense came up huge by shutting out the Panthers in the second half and allowing the offense to crawl it’s way out of the deep hole they dug for themselves.

Some great individual efforts and the one effort I want to point out is the one by Jermaine Kearse.  His play in the second half was stellar, catching two clutch touchdowns and making great catch after great catch to finish with 11 catches for 110 yards to go along with the 2 scores.

Another is rookie Tyler Lockett.  His TD catch was clutch and his receiving technique on a crucial third down situation was nothing short of amazing.  Seahawks have found a treasure in this kid.  He had only 3 catches for 75 yards but his 50 yard return to open the second half was a spark the Hawks desperately needed.

Marshawn Lynch was a non-factor in this game and I don’t feel he will be back in a Seahawk uniform next season.  I admire his running style and they way he fights for every yard he can get.  But he is at point in his career where he is starting to break down.

About the only way he comes back to the Hawks is a re-structured contract and a reduced role with the offense.  It appears to me that Thomas Rawls has the inside track to be the featured running back.

While I admire Pete Carroll’s mantra to run first, I also have to admire his adaptability to open up the passing game and put the team on the shoulders of Russell Wilson who showed the rest of the NFL that he is capable of carrying the team when needed.

Wilson showed remarkable leadership skills this game as well as the second-half of the season.  His decision making became sublime in his historic second half run.  At one point, over a 5-game stretch, he had 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions, something that no quarterback in the history of the game ever accomplished.  And there have been some great quarterbacks over the past 96 years the NFL has been in existence.

As always at the end of a season, there will be some hard choices to make.  With the Seahawks it will be with the following players:

Marshawn Lynch – No one can dispute when the Seahawks made the trade for the mercurial running back in 2010 that it was going to be Lynch to be the face of the Seahawks.  Lynch came through time after time, putting the Hawks on the playoff map with his seismic Beast Quake run against the New Orleans Saints later that same year.  But next year will be Lynch’s 10th year in the NFL and will be 30 years old.  Just coming off his first ever surgery and is one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  It may come down to a business decision to release Lynch to free up salary cap for younger players.  If Lynch decides to retire, Seattle should throw him the biggest freaking party it can…but it would be a coin toss if he showed up for it.

Russell Okung – Okung is considered one of the top left tackles in the game.  Issue I have with him is that we’ve never gotten a full season from him.  He was the Hawks first pick in the 2010 draft and landed a six year contract worth $48 million dollars with more than $29 million of it guaranteed.  Now that he’s up for free agency, he is going to command an even higher salary.  My opinion, while Okung is a good left tackle and I would hate to disrupt that line, Hawks need to part ways with Okung and find another left tackle in the draft, perhaps Jack Conklin out of Michigan State or Jerald Hawkins of LSU.  Okung is going to be way to expensive for the Hawks to keep.

J.R. Sweezy – This is a guy I think we need to keep.  He brings solidity to the right guard spot and is an good run blocker.  He is at the end of a 4-year, $2.1 million dollar contract.  If the Hawks can keep him with a 3-year at about a $5 million dollar contract, it will be less disruption on the offensive line which took a while to come around in 2015.

Jermaine Kearse – Over the last two years, Kearse has come up with some very clutch catches.  All of us can remember the acrobatic catch he made in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Patriots.  And this game, coming up huge with his performance against the Panthers.  Hawks need to keep him so the receiving corps of Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Luke Wilson and yes, Jimmy Graham are kept intact for the 2016 season.

Brandon Mebane – An absolute monster in the middle but may have to be a causality  of the business.  Gotta love the effort he puts out every game and how effective he is bottling up the middle against the run.  As much as I’d love to keep him, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to do so.

So here is to yet another great season the Hawks gave us and here is to hoping they continue to finds ways to keep finding players to maintain the level of excellence all Seahawk fans come to expect.

And while I applaud the Carolina Panthers season and their ability to survive the game against the Hawks, I will be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals next week…and if the Cards can get past them, I will be rooting for them against the AFC team they face in the Super Bowl.  Love to see one of the classiest players in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, get a Super Bowl ring.

GO HAWKS!

NFC Divisional Prediction: Seahawks-27, Panthers-24

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A lot of my articles are based on a feeling, which is why sometimes I wait to make any predictions until the last minute.  Much of those feelings are based on statistical research and I’ve done my fair share on this game.

Truth of the matter is, I’m not sure who is going to win this game.  My gut tells me the Seahawks are going to prevail only because time and time again, they have proven they can rise up in critical games and win.

The Panthers have played a wonderful regular season, putting together a 15-1 season isn’t anything to sneeze at.  And they have played some good teams, including beating the Hawks in Week 5, coming from behind at Century Link with Cam Newton directing two 80-yard touchdown drives in the 4th quarter after the Hawks and gotten the lead.

But the team the Panthers played then is vastly different from the team they will play on Sunday.  The Seattle offense, led by Russell Wilson, put together an historic second half.  Just in points scored, the Seahawks averaged 11.12 more points in the final eight games of the season over the first eight games.

The defense, while admittedly blowing several leads in the 4th quarter of games, played statistically even over the entire season.  First eight games they allowed 17.50 points per game while in the second half, they allowed 17.13.

The Panthers did better on both sides of the ball in the second half as well.  Offense scored an average of 28.5 points per game in the first half as compared to 34 points per game in the second.  Defense allowed 20.63 points per game in the first half and 17.88 in the second.

These two teams are similarly built, with a run first, kill the clock and force turnovers mentality.

I give the edge to the Seahawks for two reasons:  QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawk defensive front four.

I don’t want this to be a comparison between Wilson and Panther’s QB Cam Newton.  While their personalities and physical traits are polar opposites, their roles with their respective teams are eerily similar.  Use the run to grind down opposing defenses and to set up explosive pass plays.

It’s going to come down how well Seattle’s defensive line can contain Newton and how well Russell Wilson can sustain drives and put touchdowns on the board.

It will be a close game, coming down to Steven Hauschka field goal with no time remaining.

Hawks prevail, 27-24.

GO HAWKS!

Seattle Seahawks Win By A Hawk feather – Panthers up Next

What just happenend

I’m pretty sure that 95% of Seattle Seahawks fans was asking the same thing Archer was kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27 yard field goal, shorter than an extra point, and missed. It was a pretty sure thing seeing how Walsh had made 3 previous field goals of 22, 43 & 47 yards.

The snap was good, the hold was good and Blair Walsh, who had made 87.2% of his kicks this year, pulled it left. About the only thing that was “bad” about the kick was the laces of the football were facing Walsh when the attempt was made. This can cause some kicks to be erratic and might have played a part in it but Walsh wasn’t having any part of it.

He placed the blame solely on his shoulders. Teammates consoled him as he broke down. You can’t tell me that NFL is all business. This loss hurt the Vikings deep. Hopefully, they can take a page from the Seahawks and grow stronger from it.

Ah yes, the Seahawks, surviving the 3rd-coldest playoff game in playoff history. While I will give the defense their due, they played a fantastic game, the offense survived on individual efforts.

That’s not to say the Seahawk offense had totally fallen apart, that’s not the case at all. The offensive line run blocked well enough to allow Christine Michael to rush for 70 yards. But for the most part, it was individual efforts by Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

The first I point to is in the 3rd quarter. Hawks were at their own 20 yard line with a 3rd and ten. Wilson, out of the shotgun, drifted back in the pocket and threw high. Doug Baldwin, with a Viking on his back, came up with perhaps the best catch I have seen since the days of Steve Largent.

Baldwin went up, with his right hand extended and somewhat behind his head and brought the ball in. First down Seahawks!

The next play came from Wilson and rookie Tyler Lockett (who has not played like a rookie at all) in the fourth quarter. Seahawks had put together a decent drive and had 1st and ten at the Viking 40 yard line. Wilson, in the shotgun, was not prepared for the snap and it sailed over his left shoulder. Wilson chased it back in Seattle territory, picking it up at around the 47 yard line. He secured the ball, saw that no one was around him, scrambled to his right and found Lockett at the Viking 29-yard line.

It would have been a great play right there to pick up the first down but Lockett, with some veteran savvy, turned and ran to the left side of the field and turned up until he was driven out at around the 6 yard line. First and goal, Seahawks!

On second and goal, Wilson found Baldwin on the right of the end zone to put 7 on the board for the Hawks. Later, Steven Hauschka with 8:09 left in the game connected on a 46-yard field goal which turned out to be the game winner.

The Minnesota Vikings have nothing to be ashamed of on this game. They did all the right things to limit the Seahawk offense being on the field. They put pressure on Wilson and the cold, frigid air did the rest on his passes having them seemingly float in the air.

The Viking offense did its part as well, holding the ball for long stretches and building a 9-0 lead that in the game conditions seemed insurmountable to the Seahawks.

But then there are special players that seemingly find just the right time to create magic. Cue Baldwin, Wilson and Lockett.

There are some questions I have on some of the decisions that Pete Carroll made early in the game. For instance in the first quarter, the Hawks have the ball on the Viking 30 yard line with a 4th and 13. Instead of electing to attempt a 40-yard field goal, well within Hauschka’s range, they elected to go for it and completed a 7-yard pass to Fred Jackson.

Then, in the second quarter, Seahawks had gotten the ball to the Vikings 34 yard line and elected to punt instead of having Hauschka attempt a 44-yard field goal.

Hawks again had the ball on the Vikings 38 yard line and went with a punt instead of a 48 yard field goal with 1:15 left in the first half.

I know the conditions were brutal but I feel they left points on the field. Blair Walsh proved that a ball could be kicked from as far out as 47 yards and I think Hauschka as a better leg than Walsh.

As for heading to Carolina, the Seahawks are going to need a much better played game than what they showed against the Vikings. There is a reason that the Panthers went 14-1 during the season. However, Seahawk fans can take solace that the Hawks played them very tough in Week 6 and had the lead in the 4th quarter playing them at home.

Seahawks match up well with the Panthers and I suspect this will be a slugfest. Which it should be since this is for the NFC Division and the right to move on to the NFC Championship game.

Historically, the Seahawks have played well at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Since 2000, they are 3-2 there and the Hawks have an overall record of 7-3 against the Panthers. Over the last 4 games played in Charlotte, Seahawks are 3-1 and the score differential is only 4 points between these two teams.

I don’t see a low scoring game here however. Panthers led the NFL during the regular season scoring 31.2 points per game and the Hawks were in the Top 5, averaging 26.4. Defenses were close as well. Hawks allowed a league leading 17.3 points per game while the Panthers held opponents to 19.2 points per game.

It will be decided on who has the ball last I think. Perhaps 27-24 Seahawks on a Hauschka 50-yard field goal?

We’re just gonna have to wait and see, won’t we?

I’ll be writing a prediction of the Hawks/Panthers game later this week.

Stay tuned!

GO HAWKS!