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2019 Seahawks Review: What I got right, what I got wrong

Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2019 season of the Seattle Seahawks ended nearly three weeks ago in yet another performance in which the team fell flat during the first half and a second half comeback came up just short. It’s a story that’s been told many times in recent seasons for the Hawks, and so now it’s off to watch Super Bowl LIV as one current division rival, the San Francisco 49ers, faces off against a pre-alignment division rival in the Kansas City Chiefs.

As for the Seahawks, they have plenty of tough decisions and choices to make in the coming weeks and months through the offseason. However, before we get into those I’ll go ahead and do a review of what I got right and what I got wrong heading into the season.

Wrong: DK Metcalf’s production as a rookie

From the time of the adoption of the current CBA in 2011 until the start of the 2019 season, there had been 254 wide receivers drafted by NFL teams, and of those 254, just 10 of them had recorded 900 or more receiving yards as a rookie. Fewer than ten percent of those drafted receivers had recorded 750 or more receiving yards and less than a quarter of them had 500 or more in their rookie season.

Those percentages drop drastically once first round receivers are excluded, as only three of 224 receivers taken in the second round or later recorded 900 or more yards as rookies. Further only ten of 224 receivers taken outside the first round recorded 750 yards or more and only 43 of those 224 recorded 500 or more yards.

Well, apparently Metcalf doesn’t care about percentages or probabilities because he put up 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. I will happily be wrong about underestimating the contributions of a rookie any day of the week, but perhaps what is most exciting is the growth and development seen on the field from Metcalf over the season. There’s no question that his route running skills were limited entering the league, and while he’s still certainly a work in progress, his development is readily visible on tape. There are still certainly some rough edges for him to work on, but the development is there. Combine Metcalf’s potential with his work ethic, and the future is likely very, very bright for him.

Right: Offensive Regression

After setting franchise records in 2018, the Seahawks scoring regressed. The team dropped from a three-way tie for 6th in the NFL in scoring to 9th in the league. Some of that was due to injuries, and some of that was due to the fact that opponents appear to have identified enough of the patterns in the Seattle offense that drive-killing third down sacks became a regular thing.

Wrong: No extension for either soon to be free agent tackle

The Hawks have left tackle Duane Brown under contract for 2020, who should improve with an offseason of rest for his damaged meniscus and torn biceps. We already know he had surgery on the meniscus, so it will be interesting to watch and see whether he has surgery on the arm as well.

That said, the tackle spot opposite Brown remains a question mark for next season with neither George Fant nor Germain Ifedi signed past March 18. Whether the team brings either of them back, or whether they both depart for greener pastures somewhere else likely won’t be known for several weeks. However, at this point the only tackles scheduled to be on the roster for training camp are Brown, Jamarco Jones and Chad Wheeler, who was promoted from the practice squad ahead of the playoff loss to the Packers.

Right: The protection of Russell Wilson would not improve

Fans were blown away at the lack of protection Wilson had during the season, as he was constantly under pressure as the line seemingly could not block for him. Well, here’s a stat that will blow the mind of fans who think the line regressed significantly from 2018:

Russell Wilson’s pressure rate by season:

  • 2018: 39.7%
  • 2019: 39.8%

The difference in pressure rates Wilson faced between this season and last season is pressure on about half a snap. If Wilson had been pressured on a single snap more during the 2019 season the pressure rate would have been 39.9%.

So why did it look or feel like Wilson was under pressure more often? Likely for the same reason many felt he was under pressure far less during the 2018 campaign - because the pressure looked different. As Brian Schottenheimer has worked with Wilson to hone his pocket presence, teams have realized they need to rush differently. Once teams figured out that what had worked in the past no longer worked, they adjusted and applied the same amount of pressure through a different avenue. Because of the visual change, the mind interprets that as a change and believes things are different, when, in fact, the situation was effectively the same, simply laid out differently.

In short, Wilson’s been in the league for eight seasons, and during that time he’s played for different offensive coordinators with different offensive line coaches and has seen 31 different offensive linemen start games in front of him. It seems likely that at some point the blame won’t be able to be passed along any further, but until that time I’ll be over here beating my, “Pressure is a QB stat” drum.

Wrong: Mike Iupati stays healthy

This one seemed like a lock, as Iupati hadn’t played a full 16 games in a season since 2012. Well, Iupati decided to go ahead and prove me wrong, playing in every regular season game. He logged just a single offensive snap in the season opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals and missed both playoff games with a neck injury, however, he did indeed start fifteen games and appear in every regular season games.

Right: Jaron Brown outproduces Day 3 WRs

A large contingent of Seattle fans spent much of the offseason lobbying for the release of veteran wide receiver Jaron Brown, arguing the addition of Gary Jennings and John Ursua through the draft made Brown expendable. Turns out, however, wide receiver is a difficult position to learn, a position that for even those who grew up with a father who played receiver in the NFL can take time to break out, and neither Jennings nor Ursua were much of a factor for the team.

Brown’s 16 catches for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns were far from living up to the hype the coaching staff worked up during training camp, however, they bested Ursua’s and Jennings combined numbers by 15 catches, 209 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Ursua played in the Run N Shoot at Hawaii and Jennings in an Air Raid offense in college, so apparently neither had the route running fundamentals or knowledge of the offense to step in a play as rookies. Add in that neither was a 6’3” monster with the ability to run a 4.33 40, and the two combined for just a dozen offensive snaps during the year, with Jennings’ lone snap coming for the Miami Dolphins after the Hawks had already waived him.

Receivers taken on Day 3 of the NFL Draft rarely contribute as rookies, and with an offseason of work it’s possible that either or both of them could contribute for their teams in 2020, but that’s another prediction for another day.

Wrong: Rasheem Green will be a non-factor

I don’t believe I ever got around to actually authoring the article I was planning to write on this, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong about it. I was completely unimpressed with Green during the preseason, and that was before the addition of Jadeveon Clowney and the return of Ziggy Ansah following shoulder surgery.

As with Metcalf, I will happily be wrong on the low side any time a player is able to outperform my expectations, and Green, while far from a world beater, certainly did that in 2019. His four sacks were the most on the team, and he finished the year third on the team in pressures created behind Clowney and Quinton Jefferson.

Not bad at all for a still very young player who is still developing from both from a skills and physical perspective.

Right: Nick Vannett could be traded

On the day training camp opened I authored a roster prediction that included the following:

If there is a surprise cut or trade of one of the tight ends, I will not be surprised to see Vannett cut or traded as he heads into the final season of his rookie contract.

It took a few weeks, as that did not happen at the cut down to 53, but in the end the team traded Vannett to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth round pick. The move was not inconsistent with how the team has dealt with many of its players in the final year of their rookie contracts who have yet to develop into regular contributors.

For fans of Ethan Pocic, for whom 2020 is the final year of his rookie contract, this will certainly be something to watch for as Pocic has played sparingly over the past two seasons while lacking the physical traits and skills offensive line coach Mike Solari appears to prefer.

Wrong: The team won’t move to acquire Jadeveon Clowney

Well, I guess if the front office is going to make me look good by trading Vannett and opening the season with seven receivers on the roster, apparently they don’t want me looking good all the time. My thinking was that if the Hawks wouldn’t give in to the contract demands of Frank Clark, and Clowney was reportedly asking for a contract similar to the ones given to Clark and DeMarcus Lawrence by the Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys respectively, why would the team give up draft capital for Clowney?

My mistake here was assuming that the Houston Texans would demand some sort of return similar to the Clark deal, or at least something along the lines of what the 49ers gave up to get Dee Ford. Well, apparently somebody forgot to tell me that Bill O’Brien prefers to fire sale things and was willing to let Clowney go for a third, a special teams player and a rotational pass rusher, all while paying half of Clowney’s salary. Now, had I known that, I obviously would have been more likely to anticipate this move. That said, I’d be wrong about this again every time going forward because it seems highly unlikely any similar deal takes place anytime soon.

And luckily for Houston fans, they just hired somebody to fill their empty GM spot, so for their sake, hopefully the new guy is better than the last guy.