Making the playoffs in 2018 for the seventh time in coach Pete Carroll’s nine seasons, and for the 12th time in the past 16 years, was certainly a noteworthy feat for the 10-6 Seattle Seahawks, particularly given all the changes on the roster and coaching staff. The question after the draft and free agency is: Are they better in 2019?
As training camp opens Thursday in Renton, I’d say no.
That’s in no small part due to the fact that the news this week about Jarran Reed made a weakness weaker.
The breakout 2018 season for the defensive tackle from Alabama will mean nothing until after his six-game suspension is over. He was one of the Seahawks’ four best defenders last season, and only Bobby Wagner is set to return — and he’s in a non-holdout contract holdout.
We may learn more about Reed’s odd circumstances when Carroll addresses the media. Then again, since the episode of domestic violence was alleged by a girlfriend 27 months ago, and only Monday was Reed suspended by the NFL, it’s hard to know who will say what about anything.
The police officers that investigated the episode at his Bellevue home in April 2017 produced a 57-page report that showed photos of the locked door broken by Reed in order to allegedly grab the victim, plus other evidence and quotes from witnesses. But Bellevue’s city prosecutor eight months later did not take up the police recommendation to file charges, citing insufficient evidence while redacting a full page of explanation.
Reed claimed on social media he “strongly disagrees” with the NFL decision but nevertheless apologized for putting himself in the circumstance. And the NFL has yet to disclose why it took longer to decide the case than it took Robert Mueller to investigate and publish his report on President Trump.
If we set aside the Reed mystery pending further information and return to football, the Seahawks hastily responded Wednesday to their temporary D-line vacancy by signing free agent defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, 32 in September. His 10-year career out of Arizona included four years with Houston (third-round pick), three in Miami and two in San Francisco, where last season he started 12 games.
The Seahawks also had more good D-line news when Ziggy Ansah, the free agent pass-rusher signed primarily to replace the traded Frank Clark, became available for training camp, since he was not placed on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday. Ansah played in only seven games for Detroit last season before needing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He probably won’t have much contact practice through the preseason, but his rehab appears on course.
Beyond the D-line to the overall picture, the Seahawks are banking on a passel of young players to deliver abruptly to equal last season’s unexpected success, which in hindsight could easily have gone the other direction.
In the regular season, the Seahawks had seven outcomes of three points or less. They went 4-3, including two wins against woeful Arizona on last-play field goals. If we were to apply the non-scientific but completely reasonable estimate that three-point outcomes involve merely one or two decisive plays, the Seahawks easily could have been 6-10. And for the past seven months I would have been writing is-Pete-Carroll-done-in-Seattle columns.
But with quarterback Russell Wilson having what might have been his career year, the Seahawks had more fourth-quarter margin with his Hogwarts-level potions, charms and chants. After a 4-5 start, they won six of the final seven to make the playoffs.
Then Seattle lost another three-or-less decision to the 10-6 Cowboys on the road, 24-22, serving to remind all that in the great bloated middle of the NFL, even 10-6 teams can be meh.
Thanks to making Wilson in the offseason the game’s highest-paid player, the Seahawks retain the guy that it takes to make one or two decisive plays. And once they extend the contract of Wagner, the Seahawks will have locked up the roster’s gotta-have guys.
After that, the veterans roster has a bunch of gotta-do guys who showed flashes in 2018 but need to leave the light on in 2019. The following are Seattle-drafted veteran players of whom much was expected and invested and yet to be harvested:
Defense: DBs Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, Shaq Griffin; LBs Shaquem Griffin; DLs Reed, Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones, Jacob Martin.
Offense: OLs Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Joey Hunt; WR David Moore; TE Nick Vannett; RB C.J. Prosise.
The failure to stick with a team’s own picks is a blow not only on the field but in the front office, because a lot of personal and professional capital goes into each selection. Future drafts, undrafted free agents, trades and veteran free agency can fill voids. But the assets squandered in the Percy Harvin trade and the Malik McDowell selection stay long lost.
Every team has them. Carroll and general manager John Schneider have hit more than missed; that’s how they reached 89-54-1 in regular season and 9-6 in the postseason.
But as was discussed above, margins between 10-6 and 6-10 are thin. Second-round pick Jarran Reed just made it a little thinner on a Legion of Boom-less Seahawks roster.
Art Thiel is co-founder of Sportspress Northwest.
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