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By Greg Wright

Ten weeks and nine games into the 2018 season, Seattle’s biggest weakness is obvious, perhaps even glaring. And everyone’s talking about it.

It’s the run defense. Seattle is near the bottom of the league in giving up an average of 5 yards per rush this season. That’s an abysmal number for a Pete Carroll defense, which typically yields a season average of 4 yards or less per carry.

Seattle is not alone in this anomaly, however. YPC are up across the league this season, thanks to the increased use of jet sweeps and options. I would also argue that shorter offseason OTAs are a factor, as defensive players get less time to work with each other to perfect schemes and communication.

In the case of the Seahawks, a couple of other factors come into play as well.

First, the Hawks (as I noted last week) have had a rotating cast of characters at linebacker this year, with Bobby Wagner being the only consistent piece of the puzzle. Last week was the first time KJ and Bobby have been on the field together this season. And given the rust on that onfield relationship, lack of familiarity with Mingo, and an almost entirely new line in front of them, they are going to have some problems with “fits.” As things stabilize over the next few weeks, I expect the play of the linebacking corps to improve.

I don’t have the same kind of confidence about the line. I like the position group in general, but this year they lack the savvy and disruptiveness that Avril and Bennett brought to the line. Clark is improving his ability to sniff out the jets, but Jarran Reed and co. are regularly getting their butts trapped off. The interior of the line needs a lot of improvement against the run. And I think this group is just too young and green to see that improvement this year. The big vulnerability will continue to be right up the middle. Bobby is going to have his hands full five yards downfield.

The upside is that the even younger secondary has not really been the team’s weakness. If anything, the secondary has been vulnerable at times because of the need to play closer to the line. That’s not on them.

The really bad news for tonight is that Seattle’s weakness plays right into the strength of Green Bay’s offense this year.

Here’s hoping the linebackers have a really, really good night supporting the run D.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

If you’ve been under the impression that the Seahawks’ D is blitzing less frequently this year, you’d be correct.

Under Pete Carroll, Seattle’s defense has consistently ranked toward the bottom of the league in blitzing the opposing QB. This was as true under Kris Richard as it was under Gus Bradley or Dan Quinn. Typically, the Hawks will only bring additional pressure on about 23% of QB dropbacks.

When Kris Richard was let go at the end of last season and Carroll brought back Ken Norton, Jr., Bob Condotta speculated about whether it had to do with Richard taking too many blitz risks in comparison to Bradley. What he found, however, was that Richard’s blitz rate of 22% was actually less than it was under Bradley and Quinn. (During the Super Bowl season, the Hawks blitz rate was just 23.3%.)

During this year’s preseason, it did look like Norton was going to be blitzing more frequently than his predecessor. Once the regular season started, however, Carroll’s more typical risk aversion took over. According to a league-wide analysis this week at ESPN, Seattle’s blitz rate is down to just 18% this season–which represents a huge dropoff from previous years.

Part of this is due to a league-wide shift. Because of new wrinkles added to offensive schemes, like jet sweeps and a trend toward quicker release times, the average blitz rate is down 3.5 points to 24.1%.

That doesn’t entirely account for the dip in Seattle’s stats, however. I suspect that with a lot of green talent in the secondary, and with a rotating cast of also green characters in the linebacking corps, Norton has simply been wanting to focus on defensive fundamentals before getting cute with coverages.

The key issue, however, has always been how effective you are with your blitzes, not how often you bring pressure. And from that standpoint, I’d call Seattle’s blitzes remarkably ineffective this year. Of Seattle’s 21 sacks, only 3 have come from linebackers (1 from Mingo, 2 from Kendricks, who is currently suspended) and zero from DBs.

That’s a trend that needs to change. I’d particularly like to see Justin Coleman involved more in the blitz scheme, as he showed real talent in that regard last season. Wagner usually gets a couple sacks a year, too, which would be nice to see.

Especially this week. Los Angeles passes the ball only marginally less frequently than Seattle (and both are near the bottom of the league in passes attempted), so opportunities for pressure will be few.

The few that we get will need to count.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

One of the consistent knocks on the Pete Carroll / John Schneider regime is that this duo spends big money on free agents who just don’t pan out. The latest “example” of this is future Hall of Fame wide receiver Brandon Marshall, signed in the offseason to a one-year $1.1M contract and released this week after seeing his snap count seriously decline in recent weeks.

What I haven’t seen Pete Carroll talk about (because he’s generally a nice guy) or seen the press talk about is the precise “why” of that decision. Yes, his snap count has decreased, and you can’t pay a guy a million bucks for sitting on the bench. And yes, David Moore and Jaron Brown are getting more snaps, and playing impressively.

But Marshall’s failure to catch on with the Hawks and stick is not merely the result of snap counts and dollars.

It’s that he didn’t take advantage of the opportunities he had.

I’ve written before about the characteristic strength of Seattle’s “mediocre” receiving corps: their ability to simply catch the ball. So far this season, Russell Wilson is completing 65.9% of his passes. That means, on the average, his receivers are catching 65.9% of the balls thrown their way. Duh.

Well, Brandon Marshall was dragging that average waaaaayyyy down, catching less than 50% of his targets.

That’s right. Wilson targeted Marshall 23 times, and Marshall only caught 11 of those passes.

That’s bad for any receiver on any team, but for a Pete Carroll receiver, that’s untenable. That’s why Marshall saw his snap count steadily decrease, and why you saw Wilson throwing to Marshall less even when Marshall was in.

Hopefully, you, as a fan, have been noticing this over the first half of this season.

Hopefully, today, as you watch Russell Wilson pick San Diego’s defense to pieces in what is likely to be a big win, you will sit up and think, “Yeah. Baldwin and Lockett and Moore and Brown and Dickson–these guys just catch balls!”

And thank your lucky stars that the Seahawks can afford to cut bait on superstars that just don’t pan out.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

I’ll admit it. I think we’re all afraid of expecting too much from this young, relatively inexperienced team.

In spite of the fact that the Seahawks really no longer have a glaring weakness–something you couldn’t even say in 2013 and 2014–about the best anyone hopes of this edition of Pete Carroll’s boys is 9-7 and maybe a wild-card berth in the playoffs. And beyond that, no one is speculating. Nobody predicting a single post-season win.

Why all the pessimism?

I don’t think the press or the fans are down on the Seahawks, particularly, nor are they being critical. Not at all. It’s just that we’re all afraid of getting our hopes up.

Bob Stelton at 710 ESPN Seattle Radio probably illustrates this as well as anyone this week. His lead for today’s game against Detroit? “Seahawks’ secondary has to prove it is for real vs. Lions.” His reasoning, of course, is sound. Seattle faces five legit QBs in row starting this week with Matthew Stafford, and, Jared Goff aside, it’s not like Seattle’s new “Legion of Whom,” as it’s been styled by ESPN, has exactly been tested this year. (Never mind that, after six games, opposing QBs have a combined passer rating of just 79.9 against this group.)

But really, Bob. If that is the biggest quibble you have about Seattle, maybe you should instead be writing about the trouble that Stafford, et al, are going to be facing over the next five weeks.

Oh… but that would mean having optimism about this team, a thing we are just not quite ready for.

So again… I’ll cop to feeling that, too. I’ll confess not wanting to predict 10 or 11 wins for Seattle and the possibility of an NFC Championship showdown in Los Angeles. I’ll confess not wanting to eat crow, a dish best served to someone else.

I’ll go out on a limb nonetheless. McDougald’s first play for Seattle aside, the man has been a monster for the Hawks. Fellow safety Tedric Thompson has been equally solid every time he has filled in for injured stars. Shaq has shone at both corners over 1.5 solid seasons, and rookie Tre Flowers has been well more than competent at right CB. Everyone agrees that Coleman is a gem at nickel back. With a disruptive front line and the projected starting linebacking corps on the field for the first time this season, I predict that Detroit will have difficulty scoring 21 points against this group. And I expect the D to force at least two turnovers.

And I’ll do one better for Big Bradley McD and co. I’ll claim they need a new nickname. And I’ll give it to ’em.

The Big Mac Attack.

Ooohhh… thunder just rolled over Waterland as I typed that. It’s a sign!

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

“Darrell Bevell has been about as creative as a rock for years now. He needs to go, especially since players like Russell Wilson are getting older and cannot extend plays like they used to. His poor offensive coordinating is showing now more than ever. Hellen Keller with no headset could do better.”

“I’m reasonably certain that if we took the Seahawks playbook, and broke it up into a combination of sets and plays for various situations (1st and 10, 2nd and long, 2nd and short, 3rd and long, 3rd and short, etcetera), Pete could just pull out the appropriate deck for the situation, roll a dice to select the play, and still be more effective than Bevell. At least there’d be some element of surprise involved for the opposing team.”

“Bevell believes that he is not accountable for any of our losses. Not only is his playcalling terrible, he is full of himself.”

“We don’t demand inspired, ingenious play calling. We just demand that it not be utterly ridiculous, and follow some simple logic. Just like any one of us has to do in our professions.”

The years-long Fire Darrell Bevell campaign was fun (of a sort) while it lasted, wasn’t it? I’m afraid I never got on the bandwagon, myself. While I was never exactly thrilled with Bevell as a play-caller, I always felt the situation was more complicated than merely play-calling.

In particular, I would point the finger not at the play caller himself, but at the West Coast Offense dictum of scripting the first 17 offensive plays of the game. It’s a strategy that’s fine if you are actually controlling the tempo of the game; but if you are not, and are consistently not, you are just digging yourself a deeper hole.

The problem gets worse if you’ve been scripting plays for, say, five seasons. Opposing coaches have five years worth of film to study and, um, learn the script so well it’s as if it’s their own script. Now, again, that might not matter if you have gotten so good at your own system that you can force your offensive will on opponents even when they know what’s coming; but that pretty clearly stopped being the case as long ago as 2014.

The first two weeks of this season, however, sure looked like it was going to be more of the same from new Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: same predictability; same lack of execution; same questionable personnel and performance on the offensive line; same general offensive ineptitude.

Six weeks into the season, results are looking more favorable. The running game is on fire, producing individual 100-plus yard performances and yards-per-carry averages upwards of 5. Clock-controlling, punishing drives that wear down opposing defenses… and keep the ball away from opposing offenses. Big-play opportunities down-field for Wilson and the receiving corps.

What’s different?

Yes, the OC has changed. But honestly, I think the biggest changes are a.) personnel, and b.) execution. A year ago, the offensive line did not have Brown, Sweezy, or Fluker. A year ago, Jimmy Graham was out there missing block after block. A year ago–heck, even in the disarray of the first two weeks of this season–nobody really looked like they knew what they were doing.

Pete Carroll’s overall football philosophy took Seattle from So What? to back-to-back Superbowls in just five years.

And then the wheels kind of fell off.

Well, it’s looking like the wheels are back on–and it’s not because the play calling particularly changed. Or the system. It’s because the system is working again, with the right people in the right positions. Enjoy it while it’s working!

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

Even during the Seahawks’ championship season, it was easy to identify the team’s glaring weakness. These days? Not so much.

Let’s take a walk through what have been their most recent and most chronic obvious weaknesses, and see where they are at with them.

  1. Since the departure of Marshawn Lynch, they have not had a consistent running game. With three weeks in row having an individual rusher top 100 yards, and with QB Russell Wilson hardly having to carry the rock, the running game is working better now than it ever has under Pete Carroll–including the Lynch years. The two concerns here: 1.) we have no idea how the goal-line package is working, since they are doing such a good job of scoring from 20+ yards out; and 2.) nobody has emerged as the clear #1 back.
  2. Germain Ifedi. Boy, since the insertion of OG D.J. Fluker to Ifedi’s left, this 3rd-year lineman has started to look like a pro. Finally. Super bad timing for a false start penalty last week, but in general Ifedi has had three solid weeks in a row.
  3. Covering tight ends. Through Carroll’s tenure, this has been the biggest problem for Seattle’s D. In large part, that’s because the excellence of the defensive design, pushing routes back into the center of the field–where you want them–and in part because Seattle has been so consistent in finding good and great cornerbacks. Picking up nickel CB Justin Coleman from New England, however, and the increasing use of 3-safety packages… well, this hole has plugged right up.
  4. The Bad Apple Syndrome. As great as Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas were, they–and other high-priced egos such as Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin–have come at a price in the locker room. With Earl now gone for the season due to injury, the biggest ego in the locker room is clearly Russell Wilson, as it should be. If the Hawks are playing with more unity now than in a loooonnngggg time, that’s no accident.
  5. Inability of Seattle’s offense to score. I wouldn’t say that this has been entirely fixed, but the last three weeks have been the most productive stretch for Seattle since Russell Wilson’s on-fire streak of five games to conclude the 2015 season. The productivity of the ground game has really opened things up.
  6. Tight ends. Can we get TEs who can both block and catch passes? During the commitment to Graham’s contract, the answer was clearly not consistently. Prior to Graham, the issue was lack of experience, lack of depth, and not such great blocking. During preseason, Seattle had the best group of tight ends they’ve ever had… and though injuries have had a horrible impact on the scenario, the performance of Seattle’s TEs this year has been outstanding. With Dixon returning soon from IR, this should only improve. Still, the Hawks lack depth at this position.
  7. The receiving corps. Everyone knows that, as a group, this has probably been the team’s most-maligned skill position amongst NFL intelligentsia. Part of that is the design of Seattle’s system, of course. This is Carroll-ball, not Payton-ball or McVay-ball. Seattle does not engage in the kind of high-scoring shootouts that skew passing-yards stats out of whack. Doug Baldwin having missed playing and practice time and not being at 100%, folks might reasonably consider this a weakness for Seattle this year–but the numbers don’t support that idea. When Seattle’s scheme has clicked, the receivers have done their part.
  8. Coaching. Yes, I was screaming at the TV because of that timeout thing last week, too–but that was not really the contributing factor to the Rams’ change of play call. It was the officials’ delay for measurement. (The officials really messed up Seattle’s tempo-control last week, in general!) But I like the changes from Bevell and Richard to Schottenheimer and Norton. Both units, overall, seem to be playing more consistently well this season.

Of course, the real reason that Seattle’s glaring weakness is no longer obvious is that that they are, in general, weaker across the board. On paper, it’s clear that the Seahawks will just generally have a harder time keeping opposing teams from racking up yards and scoring, and that will put regular pressure on Seattle’s offense to score as well. But gosh, when has that not been the case? In general, the first five weeks this year have felt an awful lot like 2012, 2013, and 2014. Close games every week, coming down to the wire, with a chance to win every one of them in the fourth quarter.

To be honest, the thing that concerns me most right now is the guy that everything rides on: Russell Wilson. Will he continue to be the efficient, good-judgment QB that he’s been the last three weeks, or will he look more like the Wilson from weeks 1 & 2, making ill-advised gambits to extend plays that shouldn’t be, fumbling the ball away, or taking ridiculous sacks?

It’s time in Wilson’s career that he start looking like Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning. The Seahawks need to get consistently solid play from their franchise player. He needs to become the Bobby Wagner of the Offense.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

Well, I guess I should have published this article on Thursday so I could beat the Seattle Times to a summary of the Seahawks’ history with flipping the bird. Alas! but I will just have to take things one step further than did the Times.

For those who missed it (and did anybody miss it?), Earl Thomas left the field during Sunday’s game at Arizona’s ill-fated stadium with the second broken leg of his short career. Both times, he appears to have broken bones not while planting his foot or landing on it, but be cracking his shin on another player’s leg while in mid-air. Very odd.

The first time, Earl collided with Kam Chancellor. On Sunday, the other player in question was Cardinals receiver Chad Williams, who grabbed a TD right in front of Thomas. Thomas never regained his feet, immediately aware that his leg was again broken. As he was carted off the field, NFL cameras caught him extending his middle finger toward the Seattle sideline, his facial expression oddly blank. The gesture has earned him a fine from the NFL.

The gesture has apparently not earned him a fine from the Seahawks. In fact, Pete Carroll even came to Earl’s defense during radio interviews this week. As the good men at 710 ESPN Sports Radio pointed out, Pete has coached no one longer than Earl Thomas, who was Seattle’s first-round draft pick in Carroll’s premiere season with the Seahawks, and is now the lone remainder from that first-season roster. Carroll talked about the emotion involved in the moment, and advised extending a little courtesy and consideration toward his star safety, particularly considering that potential for such an injury is precisely why Thomas had been holding out for a contract extension and another snootful of guaranteed cash.

But more about that in a minute. First, as the Times pointed out, it’s not like this is the first time the coaching staff has been shown up in this way.

The first such incident came courtesy of Marshawn Lynch. At the 1-yard line against Arizona in 2013, Lynch flipped the bird toward the coaching staff upon breaking the huddle. Darrel Bevell had just called a pass play instead of feeding the Beast. (The play worked, btw, for those who remember the Super Bowl loss against New England.)

The next bird-flyer was Doug Baldwin, who similarly flipped off Bevell for targeting someone else besides him during a 2016 game against Philadelphia. Instead of scoring a TD on that play, as you may remember, Baldwin tossed a TD pass to Russell Wilson.

That’s the kind of thanks Bevell always got for scoring TDs and winning games. It’s a tough business.

So the question is: Why does Pete Carroll put up with this? It’s really been unfair to single out Earl Thomas this week, given that both Lynch and Baldwin got hefty contract extensions in the wake of their visual F-bombs. If I were a Seahawk, it would be very clear to me by now that such gestures are not taken by the front office as insults. It’s almost like they are terms of endearment.

Maybe that gesture was Earl’s final appeal for a contract extension?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

Just prior to the beginning of the regular season, the Seahawks announced the signing of Tyler Lockett to a 3-year contract extension worth a reported $37.8 million. Lockett was one of only two veterans offered extensions, the other being OT Duane Brown, who has been with the team less than a year.

Meanwhile, Earl Thomas and the team remain at a standoff over contract extension. With K. J. Wright and Frank Clark in the wings as well.

Lockett’s extension raised eyebrows around the league. With Doug Baldwin being the clear number-one receiver for the Seahawks–from depth chart, targets, production, and salary standpoints–the general reaction was that Seattle was overpaying for an undersized number two receiver whose numbers don’t justify the pay.

Saner brains, of course, pointed out that Lockett is not just a receiver–he’s also an ace kick returner, and Pete Carroll was right in pointing out that no one in the NFL has racked up more combined receiving/return yards than Lockett during his tenure in the NFL.

Still… I have yet to find an analyst who thinks this was a good deal on paper, particularly at the time of the signing. It has certainly been looking better with Baldwin injured and on the bench, as Lockett has led the receiving corps through three games with 196 yards and 3 TDs. At that pace, Lockett would finish the season with over 1000 yards receiving and 15 or 16 TDs–the latter number one that would break Baldwin’s single-season team record.

But one factor in all these discussions that has not been talked about is what the Seahawks might know that we don’t.

Everyone assumes that the Hawks are expecting to be paying Lockett as their long-term number two receiver. If that’s the case, then yes–they are shelling out a lot of dough, over $20M a year, between their two top receivers. (One might think that is unusual for the Seahawks… until you consider the combined salaries for Baldwin and Jimmy Graham the last couple of years.)

But what if they are expecting to be paying Lockett as their number one receiver over the next three years? From that standpoint, Lockett’s contract will be a bargain.

Wait, you say. Am I suggesting that the Hawks plan to trade Doug Baldwin?

No, I am not. But I am suggesting that both the Seahawks and Baldwin might know a thing or two that we don’t.

Since Baldwin’s rookie season, I’ve noticed that Baldwin has been protecting his knees. When he knows he’s about to be tackled, he doesn’t plant his feet, Marshawn Lynch-style, and power through the hits to maximize yards after the catch. Instead, he leaves his feet, and lets his body be pinballed around during the collision. This takes a tremendous load off his lower body during hits. And it tells me that he has always been concerned about his knees.

Given the lack of details about the preseason problem with Baldwin’s left knee, my guess is that the parties involved all know that Baldwin’s longevity is in question. The fewer games he plays, and the fewer hits he takes, the better. By the time Lockett’s contract is in full flower, everyone in the organization is expecting that Lockett will in fact be Seattle’s number one receiver.

From that theoretical standpoint, the contract makes perfect sense.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

As much as I have heard about Seahawk punter Michael Dickson being a “weapon,” I have heard very little about Seattle’s punt coverage being a liability. And yet it is, through two games.

To back up a little, for those who haven’t been following: Michael Dickson declared himself eligible for the draft a year early after his Junior year with the Texas Longhorns. A native of Australia, he had never played American football before he enrolled in an Aussie football clinic designed to teach soccer and Aussie Rules players how to deal with the American game. Within a couple years, he had landed the punter’s job at Texas, finishing his career there with an MVP award in a bowl game.

Seattle moved up in the draft to pick Dickson in the fifth round. All he’s done in two weeks in the NFL is be tied for second in net yards on punts, and make waves with drop kicks on kickoffs–something that happens once every twenty years or so in the NFL, but which will probably be a regular occurrence now for Seattle.

Aside from one 10-yard shank in Chicago on Monday night, Dickson has been nearly perfect with his kicks. Not one has bounced into the endzone for a touchback, and he even had a 69-yard punt for no return in the season opener at Denver. He does it all–distance, placement, hangtime.

But here’s the problem.

Brian Schneider, Seattle’s long-time Special Teams coach under Pete Carroll, hasn’t dialed up coverage good enough to match Dickson’s punting.

Six of Dickson’s 13 punts have been returned for a total of 67 yards. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but let’s put that in perspective. In 2013, the Seahawks led the league in punt coverage with a total of 82 returns yards allowed… the entire season.

Now, Seattle has not lived up to that near-record-breaking performance in recent seasons. So this season isn’t the only one that doesn’t measure up. And Dickson’s net average of 46 yards per punt is six yards higher than what Jon Ryan netted in that near-NFL-record season.

But if Dickson is really going to become a weapon for Seattle, Schneider’s gunners are going to have to do a better job of breaking down when they arrive on the scene, and corral opposing returners. Right now, the gunners are misfiring nearly every time there’s a chance for a return.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

Prepare to hear two things non-stop tonight.

First, the thing you already know to be true: Seattle’s defense has been ransacked. Of last year’s starters, only three or four are likely to be in the lineup tonight: FS Earl Thomas (who has only been with the team a couple weeks now); RCB Shaquill Griffin, in just his second season as a pro; DE Frank Clark (who is now the lead lineman, but was previously in a rotation with Bennett and Avril); and DT Naz Jones (maybe, depending on the whims of coach Ken Norton, Jr., himself in his first year back with Seattle).

Ouch!

Second: over and over and over, your ears will probably bleed from repetition of thereisnopassrush, thereisnopassrush, whereisthepressure?

The repetition will be justified, in a way, as it was during last week’s close loss to Denver.

Then again, the pass rush really isn’t the issue. It’s the pass coverage.

Rookie Tre Flowers may or may not be in the staring lineup tonight

In past seasons, with a super-solid linebacking corps, Kam and Earl covering centerfield and tight ends, Sherm locking down the left side of the field, and reasonable coverage at right corner and the slot (last season that was  Shaq and Coleman), opposing QBs have had a hard time finding options for getting rid of the ball. That allowed Bennett and Avril to do their disruptive things and put a lot of pressure on passers, with help from their buddies in the trenches.

Well, this year… Yes, certainly, Frank Clark and (Nameless) Company are no substitute for even a gimpy Bennett and Avril. But holy cow! Look at what QBs are going be to able to make happen downfield. This week, the entire linebacking corps is fresh off the waiver wire–and one of our starters will have been with the team less than a week! Shaq is playing the left side of the field instead of the right; and of the remaining dbs, only Thomas has been with the team for more than 17 games. Sheesh. Yikes.

In short: the D is going to stretched in Chicago. The hope will hinge on turnovers and the bounce of the ball more than on pass rush… because coverage is going to be a problem. A big problem.

Just remember: it’s not just the pass rush that’s weak. It’s the whole D. First things first.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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By Greg Wright

Well, as I imagine you have heard or read, according to Monday Morning QB there certainly HAS been an elephant in the Seahawk lockerroom. Oh, really? Wow, what a revelation. Anybody who paid attention at all to Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Earl Thomas the last two seasons could tell you that without conducting a single interview.

To kind of make my point, let’s start with recapping my biggest beefs from 12 months ago, shall we?

 

  1. “The question for Graham in Seattle will not continue to be ‘Who’s Jimmy?’ It will continue to be ‘Where’s Jimmy?’ And the answer will always be: Not much of anywhere. It’s by design, and it’s because Jimmy is Jimmy. We’d be better off without him, and so would he.” I will simply point out that by the end of the season, pretty much everyone agreed with me–and that, yes, this was a guy for whom we dished a first-round pick.
  2. “You wanna blame Garvin or Wagner or Thomas or McDougald for that very fine mess of a play [when Aaron Rodgers tossed an easy TD in last year’s season opener]? Sure. Okay. But me? I’m pinning it on the coaches. Dumb-ass stunt against the best in the business.” Again, by the end of the season, apparently the front office agreed with me. Kris Richard was exposed as too inexperienced and too young to handle the complex bunch of prima donna Pro-bowlers we called the Sea-fence. Gone not only are Richard and the other Richard, but Bennett, Chancellor, Avril… and Bevell and Cable to boot. Yes, we had some coaching issues.
  3. “As a homer, I do agree that it’s a major bummer to see [Jermaine] Kearse go. But as an NFL fan, I also realize that this is one symptom of a great franchise. We’ve really been lucky that Kearse is only the second of our Super Bowl favorites to leave town. More will go after this season, win or lose.” Um, yeah. In a big way. See #2, above.
  4. “At the press conference following the game, I asked Germain Ifedi whether he felt it was appropriate to call out [Kris] Richard for a defensive call that cost the Seahawks a victory. ‘The world is my locker room,’ were the words that fell out of Ifedi’s mouth next. ‘What’s good for the moose is good for the gander. If the D doesn’t like the offensive calls, they’re free to spout off at us, too.'” Wow, do I hate being a prophet, even when I’m writing satire. The fact that Ifedi is still on this roster is a mystery, not only to Richard Sherman but to just about anybody with a shred of football knowledge.

Where does all this leave us for the upcoming season? The answer really depends on your level of expectations. If you are expecting the Hawks to be world-beaters, returning to form after cleaning house and hitting the big reset button, you’ll probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you agree with Richard Sherman and other “Titanic”-jumpers, I think you’ll be eating a small amount of crow.

Years ago, Darrelle Revis said of Richard Sherman that he was “a product of the system” in Seattle, not a true shut-down corner. This is the year that we find out if Revis was right–even if Sherman goes on to work wonders in San Fran. Because either Carroll’s system produced two sequential Super Bowl appearances, or it didn’t.

I am not predicting a return to the Super Bowl this year–though with Russell Wilson at the helm of the team, I wouldn’t put anything past this team. But I think we will find out that one emperor really does have clothes, while another does not. I’m betting on Carroll looking pretty good.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.

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By Greg Wright

Another season, another slow start on the offensive side of the ball.

Another week, another struggle to turn Red Zone visits into touchdowns.

Another game, and another media anguish about Jimmy Graham, and why he doesn’t duplicate in Seattle what he accomplished in New Orleans. And another dearth of decent analysis.

After all, it really isn’t any great mystery, is it?

I mentioned the issue in my exchange with The Huard Whisperer this week:

But still there’s the question that has dogged the Hawks for three years: Why doesn’t Graham get the ball in the Red Zone? Why so few TDs from the former All-Pro?

There are a couple things analysts are forgetting, or just not thinking about at all.

First, the NFC West is a terrible division for tight ends. Name one All-Pro tight end produced by the NFC West in the last ten years. Can’t? I’ll name one for you. San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, and he was just a 2nd-team All-Pro. And if you’re a Seahawks fan, and I think you are, you’ll remember that Davis’ productivity started a steady and precipitous decline with the advent of the Legion of Boom. (No? Well, look up the stats.) And you’ll certainly remember the vicious hits laid on Davis by Kam Chancellor and other Boomers. (And remember what our safeties did to Gronk at New England last November?)

Two other All-Pro tight ends have played in the NFC West, too — both with Seattle. Tom Cable brought Zach Miller in with him from Oakland, and everyone salivated. As far as a pass catcher, though, Miller disappeared. And then Graham was brought in to replace Miller. And relatively speaking, Graham has also disappeared.

Tight ends disappear in the NFC West. Why? Because NFC West offenses are designed to win against NFC defenses, pure and simple. And NFC West defenses punish tight ends. If you can’t win against your division, the rest doesn’t matter, because your division is 6/16ths of your schedule.

Let’s not forget, after all, that Graham has not just disappeared in Seattle since playing for the Seahawks. He also disappeared here when he was in his prime playing against the Seahawks.

Here were his stats on December 2, 2013 in a dismal game for the Saints at the Clink:

3 catches on 9 targets. And here’s what he did when the Saints returned to Seattle for the playoffs that season:

Yep. That’s our boy. The Hawks have always made Graham disappear.

Which brings me to my second point. I have not heard one analyst this week resurrect this story from that January 2014 playoff game: “Michael Bennett: Jimmy Graham is soft, overrated.”

You may remember the scenario. During pregame warmups, Bruce Irvin and a few other Hawks were near midfield and Graham, along with a couple other Saints, ran some drills into the area. Irvin took offense, and a scuffle ensued. Graham declined to acquiesce to Irvin’s request to vacate the space, declaring “I’m Jimmy.” Irvin quipped, “Who’s Jimmy?” The Legion of Boom effectively answered the question that day: not much of anybody in the NFC West.

So let’s remember: this is still the same Jimmy. He’s even less of a Jimmy, really. When was the last time you saw him leave his feet, or break a tackle? When he gets hit below the waist, all 265 pounds of him falls over like a dry leaf. When the ball is thrown to him in the endzone, 5’9″ cornerbacks somehow manage to make all 6’7″ of The Jimmy stand flat-footed on the turf.

The Jimmy I watch on Sundays indeed still looks soft and under-performing. He needs a division with powder-puff defensive backfields.

The question for Graham in Seattle will not continue to be “Who’s Jimmy?” It will continue to be “Where’s Jimmy?” And the answer will always be: Not much of anywhere. It’s by design, and it’s because Jimmy is Jimmy. We’d be better off without him, and so would he.

 

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.

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By Greg Wright

I’m hoping that what follows will become a regular feature in this column for the rest of the season. We’ll just call it “A Chat with the Huard Whisperer.”

Every so often I’ll exchange messages with a good old friend who happens to have a ton of experience working with professional athletes, and happened to be a pretty good player in his own right.

The HW started off the following exchange with some in-game comments:

Thank God for that last observation, eh?

But how, exactly, did Rodgers pants the Seahawks yet again with a free-play TD? Let’s take a closer look at that.

First, we can’t blame it on the O line, or on Michael Bennett. Yes, Rodgers did get #72 to jump offside twice last Sunday, and even preferred to penalize Mr. B on one of those rather than take a defensive holding penalty on the same play… figuring 1st and 5 from the same spot was an easier go than 1st and 10. Bright boy, that. (Rodgers, not Bennett.)

Second, it would be nice to blame Garvin. He was the unlucky 12th man on the field at the start of the TD-scoring fiasco of a play, somewhat laggardly jogging toward the sideline as the ever-vigilant Rodgers noticed that the coaches had sent someone in to sub for Mr. G. So let’s keep him in the running for scapegoat. Temporarily.

Third, it would be not so nice to blame star MLB BWags since Mr. W was the unfortunate ‘backer who attempted to cover Jordy Nelson dozens of yards downfield. (Didn’t anyone on the Hawks read last week’s column about their sad-sack former mate Cassius Marsh? Okay, that’s a dumb question.) And it’s true. Bobby got beat on the play. Probably because the defense wasn’t at all set when the ball was snapped… because “The Sub” was still being told what he was supposed to do on the play after coming in from the sideline.

So… who was The Sub? Name come to mind? No? Have any idea?

I didn’t think so.

I will digress just a moment to discuss snap counts for the game. There were just two defensive players who were on the field for only one snap out of 82. Here they are:

  • veteran LB D.J. Alexander, in his first season with the Seahawks
  • veteran S Bradley McDougald, also in his first year in a Seattle uniform

The Sub in question was one of the above. Which do you suppose it was that the sideline genii sent in to sub for LB Garvin?

You’d be wrong if you said Alexander.

Yes, Genius 1 and Genius 2 (those being Carroll and DC Kris Richard, and the plural of “genius” being genii) sent in a third safety on that magical play.

That’s right: when S Brad McDougald (#30) came late to the party (and it definitely looked to me like he was not expecting his number to be called), it was not to sub for either Chancellor or Thomas (who might be suspect #4, actually, since Earl was wildly out of position on the play) but to relieve LB Garvin.

Now, when was the last time you saw Seattle playing man coverage with three safeties on the field?

I’ll just say this: Rodgers not only caught the Seahawks in a sloppy substitution, they caught Seattle’s coaches (Richard and Carroll) moving inexperienced chess pieces (McDougald and Garvin) around a most decidedly hostile board (Lambeau Field) against a master field general (Rodgers). Calling for a mighty strange defensive coverage to boot. And when the ball was snapped, McDougald was covering… apparently, no one. Without coaches’ film, it’s impossible to tell. There’s only the one glimpse of him in broadcast footage, chasing down the play from waaaayyyy behind.

You wanna blame Garvin or Wagner or Thomas or McDougald for that very fine mess of a play? Sure. Okay. But me? I’m pinning it on the coaches. Dumb-ass stunt against the best in the business.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.

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By Greg Wright

Would you rather be traded from the Seahawks to the Jets, or to the Patriots? Or would you rather stay in Seattle?

Let’s deal with those questions one at a time.

First: When the news of the cut-down week trades came down, I’m sure that Cassius Marsh felt like his odds of getting to a Super Bowl increased just a little, while Jermaine Kearse felt like he’d just been banished to the minor leagues.

After Thursday night, though, Marsh might be wondering what he’s gotten into, exactly. After New England’s starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower sprained his MCL in the third quarter against Kansas City, New England Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia had to juggle his lineup quite a bit and Marsh found himself with far more complicated assignments than he had in Seattle. On one key fourth quarter play, Marsh had to cover Chiefs’ rookie running back Kareem Hunt, and was completely overmatched. The pass went for 78 yards and a TD, and Marsh ended the play flat on his face at about the 25-yard line.

The TD was much more a commentary on the utter failure of Patricia’s defensive schemes and the Patriots’ lack of experience and depth on their defensive roster than it was a highlight of Marsh’s weakness, but I dare say it was the most embarrassing moment of Marsh’s still-young career.

Still, I’m sure Marsh is better off in Foxborough than in Florham Park. The Jets are in yet another rebuilding/implosion phase, and as the most experienced and accomplished receiver on the Jets’ roster Kearse will find himself the prime focus of every opponent’s pass protection scheme. He’ll get a lot more attention than he ever got in Seattle. Will he end up shining, as Golden Tate did when he went to Detroit? Or will he end up shut down and exposed, a solid number two receiver who doesn’t have what it takes to be number one? Well, part of the answer lies with QB Josh McCown, and part lies with head coach Todd Bowles. If you think QB and coach compare favorably with Matthew Stafford and Jim Caldwell, then Kearse could be in for a solid season; if, like me, you think otherwise, you’d probably expect that Kearse’s career is about over.

So that leads to question two: Right about now, I think both Marsh and Kearse would rather be in Seattle. The Seahawks roster is strong and deep, and the defense has been upgraded significantly at the line, linebacker, and secondary. Seattle is poised for another strong run at home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A perfect season would not be out of the question.

But this is really the reason that Marsh and Kearse are NOT in Seattle: the Seahawks roster is strong and deep. And when you’re deciding who stays and who goes, you have to ask not only how each player helps you, but how each player hurts you.

The departure of both Marsh and Kearse should send a strong message to would-be stars in Seattle: you can’t keep hurting your team with stupid penalties.

Kearse didn’t just see his target-to-catch percentage dip wildly in 2016; he also led the league in offensive pass interference penalties, with six.

For Marsh’s part, he had drawn enough late-hit and roughing-the-QB penalties during his three years in Seattle that officials had started to expect more of them. After last week’s preseason matchup with Oakland, I know that I was sure getting tired of Marsh’s “What? I didn’t do anything wrong!” act. Apparently Seattle’s front office was thinking the same thing.

As a homer, I do agree that it’s a major bummer to see Kearse go. But as an NFL fan, I also realize that this is also one symptom of a great franchise. We’ve really been lucky that Kearse is only the second of our Super Bowl favorites to leave town. More will go after this season, win or lose.

But for now… enjoy the ride!

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.

What will your memories of Summer 2017 be?

Most people form specific memories that stand out in Technicolor vividness because of their significance or intensity. Every year, the PowellsWood Garden Storytelling Festival in upper Redondo aims to create several of those by bringing together the exquisite beauty of the garden with stories that reflect our humanity.

Powellswood Storytelling Donald Davis entertains in the Woodland Garden

Rebecca Chamberlain explains. “There was one moment that I can’t forget. Angela Lloyd was telling one of Richard Kennedy’s stories, along with a soulful song she wrote to accompany it. Throughout her performance, a beautiful dragonfly perched on a large stalk behind her, occasionally circling in the light and returning to rest behind her. The story—about constant change and transformation of life—was meaningful on its own, but having the flowers, light and dragonfly move in and out of the narrative gave it magical significance… It felt as grounded and real as life can be.”

The goal of the festival, scheduled for July 21-22 this year, is to leave the audience feeling uplifted. 2017’s featured tellers embody this purpose. Donald Davis will share stories from his forty-plus books and CDs including his latest, Tales from a Free-Range Childhood. MaryGay Ducey, who has been praised for her “elegant, witty, and deeply moving” stories, leaves audiences feeling hopeful. Linda Gorham’s performances are filled with surprising twists, unconventional humor, and “sophisticated attitude.” Bill Harley, a Grammy Award winner and NPR commentator, excites audiences of all ages with his wildly funny songs and imaginative stories. Antonio Sacre, a bilingual teller, draws inspiration from the traditions of his Cuban father and Irish-American Mother.

Honoring the knowledge that everyone wants to be heard when they speak, the festival schedule includes workshops which allow participants to learn that little something extra that really gets people listening. Workshops run Friday from 9:00 a.m.to 3:00 p.m. Master tellers provide tips of the trade and coaching in the art of telling a great story. Workshop content is relevant to many professional paths, from non-profit administrators looking to hone their skill in telling the stories of their organizations to educators working on perfecting their content presentation. Bill Harley’s workshop “The Power of Story” is from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. MaryGay Ducey’s workshop “Risk and Roses: Stories in Service to Social Change” runs from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Donald Davis’s Personal and Family Story Intensive is from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The intensive with Davis is limited to ten participants and sells out each year so early registration is recommended.

Friday’s “A Trio of Tellers” provides an introduction to the festival experience with a short family-focused program from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Friday’s Free Children’s Program is designed to entertain school-aged children in summer camp programs or daycares with performances selected specifically for them. The short program is followed by a brief tour of the garden. Sessions available at 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. (Groups must pre-register by email at [email protected])

The full lineup of tellers performs Saturday, with seven jam-packed hours of riveting performances. Tellers rotate among the three festival tents to provide all attendees with a sampling of their unique telling style. Gates open at 9:00 a.m., telling from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

You have a lot of options for having fun and creating lasting memories this summer. The Festival could be a great one!


Tickets for Friday’s A Trio of Tellers are $10.00 per family, and all-day Saturday tickets are $20.00 for adults, $5.00 for children and $40.00 for a family pass. A full-festival pass is $125.00. Individual workshop pricing ranges from $50.00 to $115.00. Pre-registration is required for workshops and the free children’s program. A Trio of Tellers and Saturday tickets may be purchased at the gate. All tickets may also be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets or powellswoodfestival.com.

Friday lunch for workshop attendees can be pre-ordered with tickets. Saturday lunches may be purchased the day of festival from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Picnicking is also permitted.

There is no parking at the garden during the festival. Visitors with handicapped designated vehicles should call ahead to discuss special parking options. Festival parking will be accommodated at Sacajawea Park at 1401 S. Dash Point Road. Shuttle transportation is provided from the parking lot to the garden and runs continuously.

The festival is held at PowellsWood Garden, a public display garden, at 430 South Dash Point Road which has regular open hours April through October  on July 21st & 22nd the garden is only open for Festival activies. More information on visitation options can be found at powellswood.org.

 

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Storytime with these nationally-renowned tellers is free for daycares and children’s camps on Friday, July 21; advance booking is required

About PowellsWood Garden: Federal Way’s “Place to Restore the Soul” is funded by the PowellsWood Garden Foundation 501(c)(3). The garden is located at 430 S Dash Point Road and has been a special local destination since 2001.

545071_395547477148997_1176942455_nby Greg Wright

Good relationships require special care, and the intimate garden of PowellsWood is one super place to cultivate family bonds over Mother’s Day weekend. Whether it’s reminiscing about the old days while surrounded by spring blossoms, or introducing a new generation to an English-styled elegant experience, PowellsWood can’t be beat.

Called Federal Way’s “Secret Garden” by many, PowellsWood’s hedged walls and lay of the land create the illusion of being farther from the surrounding urban neighborhood than is actually the case. Mature trees and densely-planted perennial beds impart a sense that this garden has existed far longer than its twenty-five years. A stroll through this English-inspired garden has the power to transport you into another time and place… as completely as a flight across the Atlantic, except without the threat of fisticuffs or being barred on re-entry!

The garden’s standard admission rates apply this weekend, a bargain at $7.00 for adults and down from there. Children 5 and under are free.

Catch up over a pot of tea and goodies in the Garden Sun Room or on the patio. I can personally vouch for Diane Powell’s culinary expertise; you will love her lemon bars, 7-layer bars, shortbread, and chocolate chip cookies. Her scones with clotted cream are also not to be believed. No reservations are needed; just drop in for tea from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The garden will be open from 10 to 5.

After snacking, take an unhurried, exploratory stroll through the garden using the garden’s updated visitor’s guide and interpretive materials. Benches spaced throughout the garden rooms provide the perfect location to linger over a good conversation. Light picnicking is also permitted.

Sunday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm visitors may enjoy the music of harpist Victoria Norman. Ms. Norman will play a concert on the Garden Sun Room patio. Concert is included in garden admission.

A shuttle is provided from Sacajawea Park lot, just east of the garden at 1401 S. Dash Point Road; no on-site event parking is available. You won’t be waiting long for the lift, though, as PowellsWood’s new shuttle runs continuously.

If you haven’t visited before, why wait any longer? Make Mother’s Day extra-special without a lot of hassle.

Visit PowellsWood.org for more details.