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The 2019 Seahawks: Fewer wins, less watchable, but a step in the right direction?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Training Camp
oh shit you’re not doug
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Even when they were winning the NFC in back-to-back seasons, the Seattle Seahawks had their bouts of unwatchableness. Unwatchability? Whatever you call it, they had it. They’ve almost always had it.

Here are three postgame comments, after a Rams game.

“I would be less angry and worried if we had lost but with an OL that simply basically did its job.” — Rithmcck

“Hawks o-line broke whatever metrics there ever were for measuring o-line success with how bad they were tonight.” — Corax- - -Nevermore

“Yeah, I don’t even care if they won. That game was horseshit. I’ll probably feel better about the win tomorrow, just not right now.” — Bellevue

Fun fact: these remarks came in the wake of a 14-9 win over St. Louis in the 2013 season. You may remember that season for its very watchable final game. But 135 yards of total offense are going to bring out the groans.

Fun fact b: 2013 was the same year the Seahawks spotted a winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team 21 points in the first half, at home, and needed OT to prevail.

The 2014 No-see-hawks allowed 190 yards rushing to Kansas City while settling for red zone field goals and getting no calls in a painful loss. The 2015 squad yielded 39 points at home to the Arizona flipping Cardinals in Week 10 to fall to 4-5. Andre Ellington rumbled for a 48-yard score on 3rd and 4 to put the game away. Yes, Andre Ellington. Yes, in Seattle.

The Seahawks have made you throw heavy things at your television, climb in your car, take the drive of shame to Fred Meyer, plunk down $600 for a new screen, and install it rapido so you could catch the frenetic fourth-quarter comeback that falls a single play short. You can confess. This is a safe space, today.

After a 2016 season marred by injuries to Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas, and a 2017 season that ravaged the Legion of Boom while the locker room teetered through tumultuous trials and the Rams began their ascendancy*, 2018 felt like a breath of fresh air. It was almost a cool breeze on a hot day. It felt like the proverbial window was re-opening, not closing. New faces emerged; optimism filled the fanbase; the lovable Seahawks were back, baby.

* three points in the Super Bowl though, that’s some kind of watered-down Alfredo

2019, on the other hand, might feel like a step in the wrong direction. It won’t be, but it sure might feel that way. Why?

Defense is still green, and we’re not just talking about Rasheem

The secondary is not settled. Shaquill Griffin has yet to become the next great corner, Tre Flowers is full of promise but still in only his second year, somebody’s going to play nickel corner but we’re not sure who.

Linebackers are set, but they’re not young. Bobby Wagner, the GOAT, turned 29. K.J. Wright is 30. That’s like 70 in human years.

The pass rush is maybe a year away from being a factor. L.J. Collier has a freak injury, Rasheem Green isn’t a force yet, Jacob Martin is unproven, Ziggy Ansah is a health question mark, Barkevious Mingo had three sacks in his first three career games and a total of seven in the 91 games since, Jarran Reed is suspended, and Frank Clark is in Kansas City, hopefully eating barbecue every night.

There are zero reliable pass rushers on the Seahawks. Zero. And unlike running backs, defensive ends matter.

That Seattle defense isn’t a Legion of Boom, it’s a Region of Gloom with potential, as of yet largely unrealized.

Significant departures are significant

Thomas, Doug Baldwin, Frank Clark, Justin Coleman departed for more money, a fresh situation, or the sweet bells of retirement. Replacing a Hall of Famer, an induct-him-today Ring of Honor member, a premier pass rusher and a playmaking slot cornerback is more than a challenge — it’s a virtual impossibility.

Marquise Blair, DK Metcalf, Collier and Ugo Amadi aren’t supposed to be Thomas-Baldwin-Clark-Coleman. A) That would be unfair, and B) they don’t all play exactly the same positions. But they were drafted, highly for some, with the hopes that they would be part of the next core, to offset a very talent drain it does no good to gloss over. Listen: the new guys most certainly could be adequate, or better, replacements for proven premier players. Only... even in the best-case scenario, it could take a while for them to approach the sort of production Seahawks fans have grown to expect.

Besides youth, there are large questions at:

  • WR — is Tyler Lockett up to the task of WR1 again? Beyond him, who will make plays?
  • TE — Ed Dickson/Will Dissly/Nick Vannett is a room that intrigues, but doesn’t look like one that dominates, even if Dissly makes a full recovery, which he might not.
  • Even K — The feet people of football are notoriously full of variance. Just because Jason Myers was good in 2018 (and 91.7 percent means he was gooood) doesn’t mean he’ll be even above average in 2019.

Red zone and turnover regression is likely.

The Seahawks led the league by committing fewest turnovers, in addition to finishing fourth in red zone defense and seventh in red zone offense. They’re, uh, frighteningly unlikely to repeat that trifecta, especially among three of the most volatile stats in existence.

What I’m trying to say here, with as much tact as possible, is that the 2019 crew could be better than its 2018 sibling, but lose more games.

Good news, bad news: The Seahawks do not have to follow the early-decade script.

“Feels like 2012” is something we heard a lot last year. The names were fresh (Flowers! Pete Carroll, CB guru strikes again!), the ballhawking was back in vogue, the offense had its moments of dominance, and a successor to Marshawn Lynch manifested himself.

Yes, I’m talking about Chris Carson. On a surface level, his 2018 was fine, even better than fine. Look at this:

Player A: 46% success rate, 201 DYAR, 1204 yds, 12 TD on 285 rushes

Player B: 51% success rate, 127 DYAR, 1151 yds, 9 TD on only 247 rushes

Obviously, as you’ve guessed, A is Lynch in 2011 with the heavier usage, and B is Carson from last year. They’re extremely comparable, even more so when you consider that Carson led the league in broken tackles.

But if the Seahawks drop to 7-9, it doesn’t mean we just re-lived 2011 and the breakout year is a season away. Because of this pretty huge caveat: you’ve already got Russell Wilson in his prime. Something the 2010-11-12 teams did not.

In other words, as this post comes full circle, it’s possible that watchability won’t be as high this year. It’s possible that for the first time in the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks will spend Christmas eliminated from the playoff chase.

(Even in the 7-9 campaign of 2011, Seattle had a chance to sneak in at 9-7, and very nearly did, if not for an ill-timed Tarvaris Jackson Christmas Eve fumble vs. the San Francisco 49ers and a weird OT loss in Week 17.)

But a losing season — peppered, as it would be, with a couple stinging defeats that could’ve and should’ve been victories — wouldn’t mean the Seahawks are running from relevance. They could lose nine times, and yet be better in 2019 than they were last year. They could get through another round of growing pains, they could develop new dominating talent, as they’ve done before, and they could be set up to rule the division and the conference again as the 2020s begins.

Which is fine, since Carroll and Wilson aren’t going anywhere for the next decade anyway, right? And with RW, you’ve got a chance in every game. And a chance for unwatchability to turn into can’t-miss television on any snap.