Did you circle the date? Oct. 25, 2017? You didn’t? Why not?
That’s the day I was convinced the Seahawks have a great shot at returning to the Super Bowl after signing defensive end Dwight Freeney.
I suppose you could circle other dates – the days when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone and Carson Palmer broke his arm, or maybe even Dec. 3, 2017 if you want to look into the future. That’s when the Seahawks will end the Carson Wentz and Eagles hysteria by beating Philadelphia at CenturyLink Field.
Part of the reason I’m strangely upbeat about the Seahawks’ chances to finish with the No. 1 NFC seed are the flaws with the other NFC contenders. I know the Seahawks have them too, but it seems like the other two-loss teams have more.
For instance, I don’t expect the 5-2 Vikings to be some kind of juggernaut at the end of the year, not with Case Keenum as their quarterback in Sam Bradford’s absence. And I like the Rams now that they have an offense to go with their defense, but the Seahawks have already beaten them once, and they get the Rams again at CenturyLink Field in December.
The Eagles are the only one-loss team at 6-1, but they lost their starting left tackle and middle linebacker in Monday night’s win over the Redskins, and I’ll take a sixth-year QB in his prime in Russell Wilson over a second-year guy on the way up.
But in addition to all of those things, the signing of Freeney brings a veteran presence that can only help the Seahawks. Before I listened to Freeney’s introductory press conference at the VMAC on Wednesday, I was highly skeptical. Why would they add a 37-year-old defensive end to their team? What could he possibly have left in his tank?
I didn’t think about the intangibles his leadership will bring. Freeney played in three Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get there. He talked about passing along what he’s learned over the years, “doing things the right way.” If I’m a young player like Frank Clark, I want to hear what a seven-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer has to say. In fact, I’m on the edge of my seat, taking in every word.
I thought a guy his age would be too old to contribute much of anything on the field, but I could be wrong about that. He had three sacks last year as a part-time player with the Falcons. I also like that he has joined a team at midseason before so it won’t be new to him. In 2015, he signed with the Cardinals in October and recorded eight sacks the rest of the way.
John Clayton also showed me a list of defensive ends who were still playing and still reasonably effective into their mid- and late-30s. Ed “Too Tall” Jones is on that list along with Reggie White, Bruce Smith and other Hall of Famers. Plus Freeney really wants to be here. He loves that the Seahawks have such a strong focus on defense.
So I’ve gone from sarcastically thinking, “Great, just what they need, an over-the-hill has-been to help with their pass rush,” to seriously thinking, “What a great acquisition, This guy will make a huge impact on and off the field.”
We might see it as early as this weekend. Freeney is expected to play against the Texans, and even if he doesn’t, I’ll take a defense that has limited opponents to a 12-point average in five of its six games over a rookie quarterback (Deshaun Watson) making his first appearance at CenturyLink Field.
Texans (+5 1/2) at Seahawks: Seattle 27, Texans 10.
UCLA (+17) at Huskies: All of those concerns about the Washington offense, I promise you, they will disappear on Saturday. The Bruins make everyone’s offense look good – they’re allowing a Pac-12-worst 494 yards a game. Dawgs 45, Bruins 16.
Cougars (-3) at Arizona: I’ll admit it, I know my team has the seventh-best defense in the country, but I’m worried about Arizona QB Khalil Tate, who has rushed for nearly 800 yards in the last three games. He hasn’t faced a defense like the Cougs’, but that kid concerns me a great deal, so much so that I’m listening to my head over my heart in this one. Arizona 38, WSU 31.