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8 goals for the Seahawks in the second half of the season

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks lost to the LA Chargers on Sunday, dropping their record to 4-4. The .500 position at the midway point is not that bad and not unfamiliar territory for a team that has been there and rebounded to make the playoffs several times in the last six years, but it’s fair to say that the Seahawks are not quite competing for the Super Bowl at this moment.

The New Orleans Saints and LA Rams are clearly better teams in the NFC. The Carolina Panthers and several other teams in the conference also present a much more appealing case. And we saw that the Chargers are a superior team to Seattle, and that was without Joey Bosa.

That’s okay, it happens. It doesn’t mean the Seahawks should give up, and they certainly won’t. I absolutely have not. I still expect Seattle to make the playoffs. Yes, I do. But there’s other things to consider when looking at the back half of the 2018 schedule, so here are a few that I’ve listed out as the team prepares for November and December with a look ahead to 2019.

Win All Of Their Games

Obviously, this is priority number one for the Seahawks: they want to win the rest of their games, go 12-4, make the playoffs, be a hot team like they were in 2012 or 2015, and try to make some noise in the postseason. You may not want to hear that (it’s a funny thing how when morale is down many people want to keep it down and not get distracted by hope) but it is the reality that Seattle wants to win out and of course the best case scenario.

And let’s say the Seahawks even lose their next two games and fall to 4-6 — at that point you’ll also start to hear this: “It’ll be better if they just lose out and get a higher pick!” This is also nonsense.

Yes, it would be nice to add a blue chip draft prospect for the first time since maybe Bruce Irvin in 2012, if not Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010, but think about how little that matters to Pete Carroll. It’s 2018. The Seahawks have won a lot of games in the Carroll era. And I’ve just listed off the only three players in that entire time who were taken in the top 25 by Seattle. They simply do not care about big name prospects and they’ve also found their greatest successes — Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, etc — after the first round. If Seattle drops to 4-6, they’ll want to finish 10-6. If they fall to 5-8, they’ll want to finish 8-8.

That’s just going to be in Carroll’s nature and it also helps the team in other ways, such as working to retain some of their impending free agents as well as attracting the low-key, third-tier free agent options who in recent years have chosen the Seahawks because they want to make the playoffs. If Seattle goes 6-10, that’s not attractive. If Seattle is 9-7, it’s not the most enticing thing in the world, but it says, “We’re still close.”

The Seahawks goal in the next eight weeks is to win as many of those games as possible. Do not concern yourself with a draft next year that Seattle’s inevitably going to trade down in, unless what you want is to see Carroll fired, then I guess that losing out is probably what you want.

Continue to Evaluate the Offensive Line for Plans in 2019

Unforeseen injury aside, it certainly appears that Duane Brown, Justin Britt, and Germain Ifedi will be at their respective positions again in 2019. Some will ask, “Why Britt?” because Ethan Pocic and Joey Hunt are around and at some point the Seahawks may need to go cheaper, but Seattle doesn’t really save much by releasing Britt in 2019. It would have to be a Michael Bennett-type move.

The guard positions are still in flux.

J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker are both on one-year contracts and unsigned for next season. Many are calling for Fluker to be extended immediately, but unfortunately a calf injury caused him to miss time on Sunday and could force him to miss more time ahead; that’s now seven games missed in 2017 and two games missed to open 2018, plus this. Is Fluker’s injury history (which goes back to his San Diego days, though he usually played through the pain) enough to give the team pause to extend him? That’s one thing to monitor closely in the coming weeks.

Similarly they have to decide if they re-sign Sweezy, start Pocic, or go for a third option. If Fluker misses a game, it will give Pocic a second chance this season to prove he’s improving, which we have not yet seen from him.

More David Moore

He had a career-high seven targets against the Chargers, leading to a career-worst day of two catches for 16 yards and he could quite make the plays he needed to when the team really needed a play to be made. That’s fine, he’s 23 and this attention is all new to him. All the more reason to keep feeding him the ball and seeing if this is indeed your triumvirate for next season.

Does Mike Davis Need To Be Kept?

The Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny but their 1-2 punch is Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Well, Davis is a free agent in 2019 and Carson is injured yet again. Seattle needs to find a way to really know what they have in Penny, like is he a Christine Michael or is he a pre-injury Thomas Rawls? Does he deserve more opportunities and if Carson misses more games, will he be a liability? I don’t feel any sense of “Ok, here we go!” when Penny is on the field right now, which is weird because I do think he’s immensely talented. Unfortunately it hasn’t translated into the types of runs we so often see from Carson and Davis.

Can Punt and Kick Returns Be Any Better?

Seriously, those units are just so bad.

Is Either Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill a Starter?

We’re finding this out anyway. The 2017 mid-round picks were both on the field at the same time yesterday and while Seattle’s defense didn’t get high marks for their performance, the Chargers offense didn’t score a single point in the second half of the game when Bradley McDougald was out. Thompson has had lows, but he’s definitely had some highs. At this point, I think it’s even safer to say that the Seahawks would have a lot more to hope for if they still had Earl Thomas and despite the bad blood between the two sides right now, I hardly think a reunion is out of the question. In fact, I don’t know that I see good reason at this point for Seattle to not entertain using the franchise tag on him. Even if he hates them for it, even if he holds out again, he’s one of the top-10 players in franchise history and they have the right to be able to at least try and get something in return for him, if not outright retain him. If the drop-off to Thompson ends up being that dramatic, then extension talks should still be on the table, though concerns about Thomas’s leg should be taken into account.

Hill had the first extended action of his career and recorded three tackles, including one for a loss. If McDougald misses any starts, we’ll see what Hill can do for a whole game and go from there. With the upcoming short week (go to LA on Sunday, host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday), it may be that the Seahawks need to heavily rotate players in and out or outright rest some starters given what happened on Thursday last year. But Seattle should find out in the next eight weeks what they have in these two safeties or how urgent the need is to find a new starter in 2019.

Extend Frank Clark

Unless they want to use the tag on Clark (notice the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions using the tag on their premier pass rushers: teams are more cautious with these players because the long-term price tag is so exorbitant and Clark is not quite at the “surely can’t miss level” yet, like some of his contemporaries), it’s inevitable that the Seahawks will extend him. Teams just so rarely find pass rushers who can get 12-15 sacks (Clark is on pace for 15) and they also tend to not let those guys go. They drafted him despite his off-field actions, why would they change their minds on him four years later when he hasn’t gotten in trouble and has produced at levels they have had a hard time finding players to produce at?

Clark almost certainly signs a contract in December and I’d guess only Russell Wilson will have a higher salary on the team.

Evaluate Other 2019 Free Agents and Their Backups

How much is Justin Coleman worth to you?

Is Shamar Stephen a player you want to keep starting at defensive tackle? (I’m guessing the answer is yes, he’s quietly on pace for four sacks and six QB hits.)

Is this the end of K.J. Wright’s time in Seattle after eight seasons? And can Shaquem Griffin ever really be a contributor on defense?

Plus these restricted free agents, who will require raises in order to be retained (per OvertheCap.com): Quinton Jefferson, J.D. McKissic, Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, and George Fant.