If March is the month for a free-agent free-for-all, and April is the month for a billion and a half mock drafts, then May is the month for a little bit of fluff. Schedules and their perceived difficulty get pored over as if we have a clue; draft classes are dissected with all the dexterity of a gangly eighth-grader poking at a dead frog; pinches of peppery optimism or salty pessimism are added to the offseason’s simmering, summering crockpot; the NFL’s Top 100 marches on.
And while the NFL can survive and thrive when a superstar quarterback leaves or hits the trainer’s table for a season (thinking of you, J.J. Watt), your Seattle Seahawks can not. Survive and thrive, that is. Without Russell Wilson they’d miss the 2017 playoffs; without Earl Thomas for a full year they’d blow too many close games to win the division.
If we’re talking the most irreplaceable Seahawks, Wilson and Thomas have to be at the top of the list. We’ve seen how a hobbled, nanobubbled RW hamstrings the offense’s explosiveness; we’ve seen how a missing Thomas decapitates the defense.
You can argue for thread after thread after thread about how much each leader means to his unit, to his side of the ball, to the team as a whole. In fact, please do so. But first look at some of the 2017 offensive outputs with gimpy Russell at the helm.
The Seahawks sputtered to score 12, 3, 6, 5 and 10 points in five different weeks of 2016. Seattle went 1-3-1 in those games in which the offense managed under 13 points. Under 13 five times — some unusually anemic performances surfaced unusually often.
The 2012-2015 Seahawks, over four seasons’ worth of competition, scored under 13 points a total of three times. A total! They even went 2-1 in those games.
Then, look at Earl’s effect in the small sample of his absence.
Last year’s points allowed with ET: 173 in 10.3 games. Average: 16.8 which is good.
Last year’s points allowed without ET: 119 in 5.7 games. Average: 20.9 which is not good.
The Seahawks’ 38 points and 34 points given up while Thomas was convalescing? Those are the second-and third-highest amounts allowed in the PCRW era.
Two moving pictures, to sway you. Earl can cover everything that needs covering. Russell can save every day that needs saving.
So those guys are essential to the whole operation. If you exclude Wilson and Thomas, there’s a strong case to be made for a number of other superior players as the most indispensable.
Of course, the team’s apparent efforts to shop him — and his apparent efforts to shop himself — color the discussion somewhat. How irreplaceable is he, really, if a trade is being explored? Counterpoint: imagine if opposing quarterbacks were suddenly permitted to throw to both sides of the field.
He’s a legit DPOY candidate. So many tackles. 168 last year, to go with 4.5 sacks. Was dominant in 2013 too. with 154 and 5. Probably in the conversation for the rest of the decade, as he doesn’t even turn 27 until next month.
When the 2015 offense became unstoppable, it coincided with Baldwin playing at an All-Pro level. For the last two seasons, Baldwin has averaged 86-1099-10.5 while catching more than 75 percent of his targets. A Seahawks receiver — pause to imagine that — led the league in touchdown catches once. It was this guy. He also reads Wilson’s mind, if that helps.
Like, for example, a versatile pass rusher, the elusive three-down D-lineman known as Michael Bennett. Jimmy Graham’s name comes up too. Imagine the 2016 offense without his 65-923-6 line from the TE spot. (The receptions and yards are Seahawks franchise records.) The perpetually unsung duo of Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright? Sing them. Kam Chancellor, soul reaper, will have a word to say to you if he’s left off the list entirely. To venture outside the box a tiny bit, a person might even consider the one stabilizing force on an iffy offensive line, such as center Justin Britt?
Make your case below. Bring your best opinion. Sharpen your best rationale. Or, for the indecisive, rank the top 5, which is my preferred method. Like the top 100, but meaningful.
- tie, Baldwin and Bennett
Two polls, that’s crazytalk
Besides Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas, which player can the Seahawks least afford to lose (for whatever reason) right now?
This poll is closed
Other (players only!)
Let’s check back in a couple days to see if you guys split this next answer 20-40-30-10.
Which player is more essential to the success of the Seattle Seahawks?
This poll is closed
Honestly it’s about the same
Please, it’s someone else, like Richard Sherman
And no answering “Paul Allen” or “Pete Carroll” of “John Schneider,” either, as clever-accurate as the sentiment may be.