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ESPN ranks Seattle Seahawks as having 4th worst “offensive arsenal”

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NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Barnwell of ESPN recently dropped a hot take on fans of the Seattle Seahawks, declaring that Seattle has this coming season’s 29th best “offensive arsenal.” Or more negatively, 4th worst in the league.

Here’s his take on the Hawks specifically:

The Seahawks got a breakout year from Tyler Lockett and continued effectiveness from 2017 seventh-rounder Chris Carson, but Doug Baldwin struggled to stay healthy before retiring, while first-round pick Rashaad Penny was little more than a change-of-pace behind Carson and the departed Mike Davis.

The depth chart behind Lockett at receiver is scary thin, with the likes of David Moore, Amara Darboh, Jaron Brown and second-round size/speed monster DK Metcalf at wideout, and Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett and post-patella tear Will Dissly at tight end. It’s telling that the Seahawks gave Brandon Marshall meaningful snaps last September; it’s scary that they’re actually worse at the position without replacing Baldwin.

To be clear, this ranking is specifically about three positions: WR, TE, and RB. It does not take into account the talent of QB, O-Line, or the offensive scheme as a whole. The assertion is that 28 other teams in the 2019 NFL have better receivers, tight ends and running backs than the Hawks, including every other team in the NFC West.

Seattle finished last season 7th in PPG. I could very well be mistaken, but my assumption would be at least some part of that was the result of athletes such as WRs, TEs, and/or RBs.

Before we evaluate Barnwell’s assessment, what types of factors would lead somebody with working eyeballs to place Seattle 29th in such a list?

1) An overemphasis on big-name players. Regarding receivers Barnwell said “It’s scary that they’re actually worse at the position without replacing Baldwin.” But neither of those statements are really true. In almost every meaningful statistic, Baldwin had his 2nd worst season as a pro last year. Furthermore, Seattle just drafted three receivers, and Pete Carroll has already said Jaron Brown is much better than they allowed him to be last year.

2) One of Barnwell’s criteria: “The arsenals are weighted more toward receivers,” followed by a criminal underappreciation of Tyler Lockett. Seattle does not throw the ball the way other teams do, which is why your fantasy team never wins if you’re too much of a Seahawk homer on draft day. Seattle WRs do not put up the volume of yard and catch numbers that the Los Angeles Rams (#1 on the list) do. Lockett is one of Seattle’s most talented offensive players and caught only 57 passes last year for under 1,000 yards. That makes it hard for guys looking at spreadsheets to gauge Seahawk talent from time to time.

3) Chris Carson does not contribute much value to this list. Brock Huard of 710 ESPN has an interesting theory on why Chris Carson is underappreciated at the national level. The short of it is, Carson doesn’t catch the ball out of the backfield the way the Christian McCaffreys and Saquon Barkleys of the world do.

4) Will Dissly only played four games. And to be fair, that’s not enough time to decide if someone is ready to contribute on an elite arsenal level up to ESPN’s standards.

5) A mild and very unofficial observation that the folks at ESPN tend not to like the Seahawks overmuch. I of course, have no evidence for such a belief, not even this coming season. All six of ESPN’s Mike Clay’s predicted wins are home games, and only two against teams with a winning record. It’s been a theme in the national media since the 2012 draft.

We’ve already spoken to Seattle’s points per game last season, but here’s a few more thoughts that would incline me to believe in their offensive personnel this season.

Barnwell generously calls Carson’s 2018 campaign “continued effectiveness.” Chris Carson was a top-10 back in rush yards and rush TDs. He was a top-10 back in broken tackles and yards per game. We’ve already covered the highly explosive ability of both Carson and Rashaad Penny as a tandem, and I still maintain that Penny’s lack of rookie training because of his finger injury kept him from some of the expected growth last year. This list promises to be concerned only with expected 2019 performance, and the RB group alone is probably enough to bump the Hawks out of the bottom four.

If this list is truly about talent, and not about rewarding a team for offensive scheme, then Tyler Lockett needs to not be punished for it either. Russell Wilson’s 158.3 passer rating when throwing to Lockett had never been done before. He tied for the 2nd most 40+ yard touchdowns in the league with 6. Again, one would think a top-receiver performing at that level keeps a team out of the cellar.

Tight End did not do anything flashy for the Seahawks last year, but anyone who saw the first four games, saw Jimmy Graham recover from a patellar tendon injury, and remembers that Dissly is ahead of Graham in recovery, can’t help but be hopeful about some excitement this year. It was also unclear if Barnwell cared about a TE’s ability to block, and that may have attributed to the low rank as well.

It should be noted that not everyone doubts Seattle as hard as certain individuals at ESPN. NFL.com thinks Russ, Carson, and Lockett are the 8th best trio in the league.

But it’s still probably bulletin board material for some players, even if angry Doug Baldwin is no longer reading. The Seahawks have been a chip-on-the-shoulder type of team for a very long time, and often seem to perform better that way. For the second year in a row, it seems they’ve got a lot to prove to the rest of the nation.