Moore: Why this will be a critical week for the 2019 Seahawks
Since the NFL Draft late last month, many have wondered whether the Seahawks are better than they were last year when they finished 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Then again, are they worse or about the same?
It’s certainly fair to speculate even if it’s four months until they open the regular season against the Bengals. Right now I’d say they’re about the same. For every projected weakness (pass rush), you could counter with a projected strength (improved kicking game with Jason Myers replacing Sebastian Janikowski).
They might lose Doug Baldwin to retirement, but they added three receivers in the draft, one of whom, D.K. Metcalf, flashed the brightest at rookie minicamp over the weekend.
My biggest hangups have not really been addressed as yet – run defense (the Seahawks allowed 4.9 yards per carry last year) and pass protection (they allowed 53 sacks of Russell Wilson).
It’s interesting how some players who appear to be vulnerable as starters to reporters and fans – such as right tackle Germain Ifedi and right cornerback Shaquill Griffin – are perhaps seen in a better light by the coaching staff. No offensive tackles or cornerbacks were selected in the draft, suggesting that the Seahawks are comfortable with Ifedi and Griffin as starters or feel like they’ll be pushed by players already on the team. For instance, George Fant, who was scheduled to be the starter at left tackle two years ago before tearing his ACL in the preseason, could compete with Ifedi for the starting right tackle job this year.
In addition, the Seahawks didn’t draft a quarterback to at least compete for the backup job, which suggests they like Paxton Lynch more than anyone in Denver did. Lynch was a first-round washout with the Broncos, but he sure looks like he’ll be the second-stringer here, especially the way the undrafted free agents and tryout QBs looked at rookie minicamp.
Thing is, you can’t really get a good handle on the Seahawks until later this week. At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, teams can sign free agents without losing compensatory picks, something that’s becoming increasingly important to general managers. It’s a formula based on players lost vs. players gained in free agency, also factoring in how much they sign for.
If the Seahawks were to sign two or three more free agents before May 7 at 1 p.m., they would lose picks in the 2020 draft that they gained when their own free agents signed elsewhere. As an example, the Seahawks gained an extra third-round pick when Earl Thomas signed with Baltimore and a fourth-round pick when Justin Coleman signed with Detroit.
The Seahawks currently have 11 picks next year and don’t want to be in a situation like they were in this year when – before the Frank Clark trade – they had just four picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
With Clark’s $17 million off the books and the possibility that Baldwin’s $10 million might disappear too, the Seahawks have room to operate under the salary cap. It sounds as if they’re targeting Ziggy Ansah, a sacking machine when healthy. In his two full seasons in 2015 and 2017, Ansah recorded a combined 26.5 sacks.
Doing the math, if Ansah, 29, were to play the entire 2019 season, he could conceivably come up with the 13 sacks that Clark had last year. But his latest injury – a shoulder issue – could be problematic. The only good news about that is that Ansah might come at a cheaper price as a result, allowing the Seahawks to pursue another injury-prone edge rusher in Nick Perry.
If the Seahawks get one of these two players, I don’t think we’d look at the pass rush as being a concern anymore. Even if Ansah and/or Perry are stopgap players, it would give the Seahawks proven guys to go with potential pass-rushers in second-year players Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green. The Seahawks also have Jarran Reed, who provided a surprising 10.5 sacks from his defensive tackle position last year.
I’m in the minority on this one, but I’d still like to see the Seahawks take a flyer on Ndamukong Suh, the wildly talented if sporadically motivated defensive tackle who played for the Rams last year. If it’s not Suh, I hope they give former Huskies defensive tackle Danny Shelton a shot to come home and help with the run defense.
If the Seahawks make two or three of these moves, they would at least appear to be above average on defense, good enough to chase another playoff spot and perhaps even get into the Super Bowl conversation.
We’re a long way from the season even starting, but when it’s over, if the Seahawks fall short of their goals, I think it will be because of the offensive shortcomings more than the defense’s. The possible loss of Baldwin will hurt more than the loss of Clark.
You’ve got only one receiver you can count on in Tyler Lockett. David Moore and Jaron Brown did little to distinguish themselves last year, and the three drafted rookies, though promising, don’t figure to light it up in their first NFL season. If that’s the case, it’s typical for rookie receivers.
And as nice as it was to see the Seahawks lead the league in rushing after being so bad during the last two years with Tom Cable as the offensive-line coach, I’d like to see drastic improvement in pass protection. At some point, Wilson will go down and not bounce right back up. Right now in that scenario, we’d see Lynch trot onto the field, likely bringing an 8-8 or 7-9 record with him.
The first full week of May doesn’t usually bring more clarity to the Seahawks, but this year with their needs, it’s a critical stretch in the offseason.
The Go 2 Guy Jim Moore appears weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on Danny, Dave and Moore on 710 ESPN Seattle. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo. Jim also hosts “Bark,” a podcast about dogs that’s available at 710Sports.com and wherever you find podcasts.