Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekly Wrapup with Bill T

by: William Tomisser

Hey Seahawk fans,

I had a great Thanksgiving and hope every one of you Seahawks fans did too. The team obliged by losing the game and keeping my hopes alive of drafting another LT of Walter Jones’s caliber to man the left side of our offensive line for the next decade. I cooked up a 10 course dinner that had everyone looking for a forklift to get moved out of the dining room with when it was over.

While I was in Seattle last week, I met Strategerie for a way-too-short conversation before the Redskins game; it was really nice to put a face to the great comments and writing she does for the SA Blog. She and I could have probably talked Seahawks for a couple of hours instead of the ten minutes we had, but I do treasure the time we did have. I hope to meet more of you next year when I come down to check out the Mora era.

Now, on to the Dallas game . . .

Well, what did you expect? I think everyone knew in their heart of hearts going in that we were most likely going to get pounded. I thought we’d make a little better showing than we did, but Dallas is a team still in the hunt and hungry for a victory. We didn’t have the horses to get it done against a talented team playing on their home turf in their special game of the year. Even so, we had our moments.

The Good

Carlson is showing himself to be resilient and, despite having had some big drops in previous games, he keeps coming back and makes big plays the next time out. He’s a gamer and I think he’ll settle down and become the best TE the Seahawks have ever had before it’s over. He had 6 receptions for 105 yards and a 17.5 yard average, which equaled the combined yardage of the next two receivers for Seattle (Branch and Robinson totaled 105 yards between them). He should be a pretty good player when he gets to the point where he knows what he’s doing (sarcastic).

Once again, it looked to me as if the team played hard and didn’t give up as some of you suggested they did. They looked like they were overmatched, which is what happens when you meet a good team and you’re down to playing your backups and the backups' backups in some cases. The players who are playing don’t give up though, and that will carry forward to next season and manifest itself as team spirit. If we do get the 3rd or 4th pick in the draft, it will be legitimate and we’ll have earned it. The team shows no signs of sandbagging or intentionally losing to gain a better draft pick. That’s as it should be. I’m not under such ethical constraints, however, and I’m for going on a four game losing streak to finish the season and cashing in next April. The Seahawks can’t even think about that but I can. I don’t represent the team in any way and I can have the team’s best interest at heart no matter where that position takes me with regard to hoping for losses to garner a better draft position. More on that theme later.

Jon Ryan punted 7 times for a 50.1 yard average. While it’s not good that we had to punt 7 times, Ryan has become more dependable and has shown a strong leg of late. We may have found our punter for the foreseeable future and it’s always good to have another home town boy on the roster.

The Bad

Walter Jones is starting to show that he’s just an average LT. He was beat for two sacks Thursday and got beaten so badly by Ware on the second one that he didn’t even touch him. Walter’s probably still got a decent season or two left in him but he’s only an average LT now, not the elite protector he once was for Seattle's QBs. If we end up with a high draft pick and choose our LT of the future (either Smith or Oher), we might be looking back at this season as the best thing that could have happened to us as Jones’ skills decline. He’s been our most valuable player over the last decade, and to get the opportunity to get another like him without having to actually become as bad as our probable 2-14 record might indicate is something that comes around once in a blue moon. Maybe this year is all about fate giving us a boost.

JJ lost his second fumble in the last 3 games and generally doesn’t look as good as Mo Mo does to me. It really looks as if we’d be better served by acquiring a young RB who can grow with the team and be our RB of the future somewhere along the line during the offseason. I don’t think the platoon system really worked at all and both RBs have suffered because of it. If I had to choose a RB right now to keep, it would be Morris. He’s made bigger plays and has caught the ball well coming out of the backfield. I think Ruskell still has some tinkering to do with the running game, both on the offensive line and at the RB position. Mora will probably have a lot of input into that process, as well as his chosen offensive coordinator.

The defense once again sat back and played vanilla schemes and got smacked around until they started blitzing in the second half and finally got Romo rattled at times. Why Marshall doesn’t come out with that kind of aggression in the first half and before they get so far behind is a real puzzler. In my opinion, this is one of the big reasons that the same defense that was so good last year is so bad this year. It appears to me as if Marshall plays reactive to the situation instead of playing the aggressor and forcing the offense to adapt to his defense. It looks as if his defensive plan is to wait and see what the opponent is doing in the first half and then come up with his solution in the second half. Isn't that what game film is for? He should be able to devise a defensive strategy that is somewhat effective right out of the chute and then modify it as the game goes along according to specific game situations. His initial defensive plans are usually ineffective, forcing us to always play catch-up. I can’t wait for Mora to take it over and take these talented players we have and use their skills to best advantage. On the other hand, right now I’m pleased that Marshall is not calling it better as that contributes to our losses and that contributes to our chances of getting the high first rounder that I expect us to get as a reward for putting up with the crappy season. Keep up the good work.

The Ugly

Where do I start? The 7 sacks, the Cowboys scoring TDs on their first three possessions, Romo passing for 331 yards, Witten catching 9 passes for 115 yards to go along with TO’s 5 catches for 98 yards, or how about the fact that Dallas didn’t have to punt until the 5th time they had the ball? By halftime, Seattle had surrendered 17 first downs to Dallas in 33 plays, slightly better than giving one up every other play. It really looked as if the Seahawks were playing their second and third stringers against the Cowboys' first string . . . wait a minute, that’s exactly what was happening, and after Hill left the game for good, it got even worse. We really don’t have to worry about Holmgren playing younger players and giving them some game experience, as he’s got no choice. Say what you will about lame duck coaches, job insecurity, bad defensive schemes, or whatever else you may want to blame the bad season on, but injuries to a phenomenal number of our best players and backups really have accounted for the lion’s share of the problems the team has had this year. There’s not a team in the league with more injuries to important contributors or that had entire positions wiped out, and it’s no coincidence that as a result the Seahawks will probably make one of the biggest falls from glory in recent NFL history this year. Of all the people to blame for this season, fate is probably the biggest culprit. I’ve found that a lot of fans would rather point a finger at a person to be responsible than just admit that stuff happens.

Odds and Ends

I’m still not sold on Spencer at center, but a lot of you guys seem to think he should be given some slack and that he’s playing better now that he’s healthy and had some time to gel with the offensive line. I still wouldn’t mind seeing us get a veteran center and moving Spencer to guard/backup center where I think he would play better without having to make the line calls. However, I do think we have bigger fish to fry this offseason and could go along with giving Spencer some more time to develop as long as he stays healthy and gets the work in that he needs to improve. I always have to remind myself that Tobeck didn’t become an all-pro center until towards the end of his career--even he wasn’t the Tobeck we all knew and loved after only three years in the league.

Rookie TE Martellus Bennett, whom some of you may remember was the TE I wanted us to draft, caught his 3rd TD in as many games. Time will tell if he or Carlson ends up being the better choice, but he looked pretty impressive to me. As a junior coming out early, his upside for the first year wasn’t as big as Carlson's, who had the edge in experience, but I think Bennett is more athletic, faster, and will potentially become a better blocker. I hated that he went to Dallas. We wanted the most NFL ready TE so we could send Holmgren out in a blaze of glory. I hope we don’t pay for taking maturity and experience over raw talent and potential for the rest of their careers. I will say that overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Carlson’s development and I think it’s still up in the air who got the better deal. It’s way too soon to call that one at this point. For the present, I’ll still defer to Ruskell and Holmgren on that one and give them the benefit of the doubt as they obviously know as lot more about player talent and intangibles than I do.

**Tirade Time**

I’ve had some discussions with a few fans who absolutely think that I’m somehow morally wrong to be rooting against the Seahawks just so they can get a better draft choice at this point in the season. That’s absurd! I don’t have any way of influencing the team and wholeheartedly agree that every player who is playing on that field should be trying to win the game to the best of his ability. However, I’m a fan and I don’t have any of those constraints. I can wish for anything I want and, if it comes to pass, I will be totally free from guilt in my conscience about my team benefiting from it. The team has to be clean and try to win games as hard as they can; I, on the other hand, can be as mercenary as I want. No conflict here. Lose the rest of the games and get a great draft pick. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best thing that can possibly happen to the Seahawks now. Just because I can articulate it and hope for it and do nothing but talk about it doesn’t mean I’ve lost my Seahawks fan status or my desire to see the team do well in the long run. The point of this little tirade is that if you’re one of the fans who can’t stand to see me root against the Seahawks or think it’s unsportsmanlike to hope we lose to get a better draft pick, go jump in a lake! I think it’s absolutely crazy to want to win another game when all that would do is hurt our chances of acquiring a blue chip player for the cheap and hollow buzz you’d get after the meaningless victory and because you think it’s somehow the right thing to do, then wonder next season why we didn’t get better and start talking about how bad a talent evaluator Ruskell is. Give the man something to work with and watch what happens. Ruskell hasn’t gotten to draft lower than the mid twenties in his four drafts with the Seahawks. Given some of the talent he’s pulled out of that position, I’d love to see him work with a top 5 choice. Although no one from the Seahawks can even talk about it in a dark room all alone on a deserted island, I have to believe that some of them have considered in the most guarded part of their mind the ramifications of losing the rest of their games and getting that very special player who may be able to make an impact on a team as talented as the Seahawks are when its players are healthy enough to bring them back into the serious contention. The big difference is that they can never never never even make a whisper about the subject, but I can shout it out and openly campaign for it and you’ll hear me counting it down for the rest of the season. That’s it. If you don’t like it, tough. If you think I’m a traitor, I could care less. I know in my heart where I stand with my team. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t read anything I write. If you feel as I do, welcome aboard the gravy train.

**End Of Tirade Time**

The Week From Your Comments

A lot of our attention is being turned to possible players we might be interested in from either the draft or in free agency. By now, everyone pretty much knows my position about whom we should draft, and from what you’ve all been saying it appears a lot of you feel the same way. The offensive line seems to be favorite area to concentrate on if we have a high first round pick and I think that Walter Jones’ performance against Dallas Thursday pretty much underscores that need as well as defines where the help is most needed. It’s becoming pretty obvious that we’re in need of a dominant LT to take over from Jones as soon as maybe even next season. There were some unsubstantiated rumors that Walt might be thinking of hanging it up and departing with Holmgren, but even if he plays for another year or two the handwriting’s on the wall. The strength of your offensive line, your QB’s health, the running game’s ability to move the ball, and your passing game’s ability to function all depend on the effectivness of your LT and his ability to dominate and anchor your offensive line. Walt’s been our most valuable player for a long time now and life without a top drawer LT could be difficult to imagine. A lot of you guys out there get that and realize what another great LT could do for our team in the coming decade. Michael Oher seems to be the top choice among fans, but Andre Smith has his supporters too. Below in the Weekly Topic Of Discussion, I talk about what has to happen for that to become a reality for the Seahawks.

Most of you have also put a high emphasis on acquiring a WR or two to bolster our receiver corps for next season. A mix of a prime free agent and a mid-round draft choice seems to be what most of you feel the Seahawks should try to make happen. It was pointed out that with Branch, Burleson, Payne, Obomanu, Bumpus, and the possibility of Engram and Robinson coming back to boot, we’re maybe not as bad off as it would seem at first glance. The other half of the four young guys will most likely be back to vie for a spot, too (Kent and Taylor), which makes for nine receivers without adding any new ones. Since we we still don’t know how recovered Branch is and how well Burleson will come back from his injury, I think it would be prudent to go after a free agent WR who can play any position and who has proven himself to be dependable as well as draft a WR somewhere in the 2nd through the 4th rounds who has the upside to become one of our top receivers after learning the offense. Let those 11 guys fight it out for the 5 or 6 available roster positions and any practice squad positions available for which they would qualify. Wide receiver is definitely a position that should get a thorough appraisal along with some help from Ruskell during the next offseason.

To summarize the fixes we’ve all suggested to the offense, it seems that it all starts with the offensive line and, more specifically, the LT position. Secondly, it appears that some of you think we should also be going after another premier guard to give us a young line who can develop together and perhaps become as cohesive as our 2005 line was. I think that these are very good suggestions and to put together a young and talented line could very well be the most important consideration to putting this team back into position to start another multi-year run at the big prize. Other than the offensive line, a lot of you guys think we need to bolster the WR position with both free agent and draft acquisitions. I can’t disagree with that one either, but it’s probably somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to this year's decimation of the receivers group. On the other hand, having 10 or so receivers fight it out for 5 or 6 jobs could very well bring out the best in all of them and give us a very talented group with which we can go into next season. As long as Hasslebeck is alright we’ll be good for another 2 or 3 years in his hands, but I think we also need to consider getting his eventual replacement identified and working behind him so he’s ready when Matt is done. I also think that getting a young stud RB wouldn’t be a bad idea, plus we should figure out who is going to be the featured back for next season and stick with him. The only trepidation I have about all the offensive changes and fixes we’re proposing is that, with Mora being a defensively minded coach and Ruskell also coming from the defensive side of the game, will they let the new OC have these changes or will having the high draft choice make it too much to resist going after a blue chip defensive player instead of an LT? I just hope they really see what Walter Jones has meant to the franchise over the last decade.

On defense, our biggest problem is our pass defense, yet I didn’t see much mentioned about possible remedies for that problem. Most of you focused on the offense. To me, getting a better pass rush is paramount if we want to solve the problem of letting teams pass their way through third downs and march right down the field for a score when all we had to do is stop them once on a third down and give our team another opportunity to rally and get us back in the game or extend our lead. No matter who has been shredding us, it seems that as soon as we start mounting a decent pass rush, we climb right back into the game and become competitive again. Sometimes I see one of our DBs get burned, but if it’s after covering their man adequately for 2 to 3 seconds, you have to put that on the defensive line and the pass rush because even the best DBs can’t cover an NFL receiver for much longer than 3 seconds. If we’re giving the opposing QB more than 3 seconds to evaluate the defense and throw the ball, we’re asking too much out of our DBs and not getting enough out of our pass rush. Lots of times during the season I’ve seen our DBs criticized for not covering a receiver, but in reality it was our inability to put pressure on the QB that was at fault. I think that somehow getting a pass rusher who can consistently put pressure on the QB should be another of our absolute top needs for next season. I put a premier pass rusher right up there in importance with LT and WR. We’ll have time after the season ends to hash it out and figure who we think can best fit the bill for us, but a pass rushing DE or DT is another important ingredient for next year's team.

I think that two other defensive positions should be considered for upgrade are a safety with which to replace Russell and a CB to play opposite Trufant. Jennings should still be given a chance to develop and Wilson does pretty well in the nickel CB position, but we’re lacking another sizeable athletic type of CB to play opposite Trufant and keep defenses from avoiding him by picking on a weaker player. Grant can play either the free safety or the strong safety position, and acquiring either type of safety to play opposite him would give our defensive backfield new blood and, along with a fearsome pass rusher and better CB, would give our defense a chance of being the top defense we envisioned them being this year.

Of course, we need to resign Hill so we don’t end up with even more holes in our defense to fill, but assuming that Ruskell accomplishes that all-important signing, acquiring a pass rusher, a CB, and a safety who can come in and play should be the extent of the defensive adjustments needed to give Mora a top group of talent to mold into a feared shutdown machine next season. I welcome your comments on what you guys and gals think we should be doing to bolster the defense next season.

Weekly Topic Of Discussion

I’ve taken a good look at the rest of our schedule and the schedules of the rest of our biggest competitors for a high round draft pick along with each of their supposed needs are and discovered what the scenarios are that will lead us to the prize. I kind of detailed this in a post last week, but I wanted to put it out in a easily understood format for everyone who is interested in reading it.

According to various draft sites, the Chiefs are pretty well set at LT, but both the Lions and Bengals are in need of an LT as well as other positions. Assuming that we lose out (our magic number is now 4 more losses), our pick will still depend on the last game of the season between the what would be 1-13-1 Bengals and the 1-14 Chiefs, assuming that they also lose out until then (which is highly likely, given their schedules). We would be 2-13 going into the Arizona game.

With a Bengals win on the last weekend, the draft order would be:

Lions 0-16
Chiefs 1-15
Seahawks 2-14
Bengals 2-13-1

This is our best scenario because the Chiefs are presumably not interested in an LT and unless they would trade down to someone needing a LT we’d have a chance at either Smith or Oher--and depending on whom Detroit selects or if they pass on LT, we could have our choice of the two.

A Chiefs win would put the order as:

Lions 0-16
Bengals 1–14–1
Chiefs 2-14
Seahawks 2-14

A tiebreaker of some sort would decide between the 3rd and 4th picks. Under this scenario, both Smith and Oher could be gone to the cats (Lions and Bengals) before we get on the board. Under the previous one, we would get either Smith or Oher depending on who the Lions took, unless the Chiefs let someone else trade up to their position to snatch the other premium LT away from us. I consider Monroe a bit of a step down from Oher and Smith. From what I have read the Lions prefer Smith, so with a Cincinnati win on that last game, we would probably get our man in Oher.

That scenario still looks good with more injuries from Thursday’s loss to Dallas and not much chance of winning against the Patriots or Jets at Quest or at Arizona in the desert in a morning game. Arizona’s loss plays into our hands in that they could still be fighting for playoff seed on the last game and be playing to win instead of resting their starters. That leaves the Rams as the pivotal game in my mind. It will most likely come down to them or us having that 3rd or 4th pick and having the chance to draft a franchise LT (or whomever the Rams might draft in that position). If we beat the Rams, just paste them into the Seahawks' position in the above draft order and put us down another three spots or so and out of the LT sweepstakes. We’d still get a pretty good player, just maybe not an elite one like Smith and Oher promise to be.

Maybe you aren’t into rooting for losses to get a better draft choice and maybe you are, but in the words of our beloved immortal lame duck it is what it is. The team has had some pretty good luck with very high draft choices like Shawn Springs (3rd), Cortez Kennedy (3rd), Joey Galloway (8th), Walter Jones (6th), Jacob Green (10th), Kenny Easley (4th), Curt Warner (3rd), and Sam Adams (8th) all being top ten picks. How many of you wouldn’t mind having another player of that caliber playing for Seattle again? So, here’s to a perfect 0–4 record over the next month and then having 4 months to salivate over our next blue chip player.


Bill Tomisser
Anchorage, Alaska