Seattle tried to fix what wasn’t broken

Jimmy_Graham
Graham joined the Seahawks this offseason after five years in New Orleans.

On paper, it seemed like it would boost them to another level. No one would be able to touch the Seahawks after adding Jimmy Graham.

Fast forward a few months and Seattle finds themselves on the losing end of a game with the Rams in which the defending NFC champions they allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked six times. On a critical fourth and one, the offensive line got absolutely no push and Marshawn Lynch was stopped in the backfield. In the process of trying to elevate their offense to another level, the Seahawks created a whole new issue.

Max_Unger
Unger was elected to the Pro Bowl twice in his five years with the Seahawks.

Landing Graham was a big addition but it completely gutted the offensive line. As part of the deal, Seattle had to send All-Pro center Max Unger and a first round pick to the Saints. Remember also that left guard James Carpenter left this offseason in free agency and right tackle Breno Giacomini hit the road a year earlier. Suddenly, Seattle only has two of its offensive linemen that won the Super Bowl in 2014.

These problems should not come as a surprise to the Seattle front office either. The Seahawks have been great at finding the next man up to fill the void but that can only work so often. They rolled out a very inexperienced line. Center Drew Nowak made his first career start. Right tackle Gary Gillman made his second. Justin Britt entered only his second season as the starter. Everyone has to get their first start at some point but usually you don’t throw that many inexperienced players out to play at once and expect a good result.

Now, they look like a team without an identity on offense, stuck between wanting to join the vertical passing trend and sticking to their hard-nose grind it out approach they’ve had for the last five years. It has created a difficult situation for Seattle’s offense.

Between all four preseason games and the season opener, the Seahawks’ offensive line has allowed 20 sacks. That’s an average of four sacks a game and that doesn’t even take into account how many other times Wilson gets hit. Sure, the preseason does not count but more often than not, those tendencies you see in the preseason can continue to persist come the regular season.

Graham, over the course of the season, should prove to do well over the course of the season but not enough to justify dismantling the offensive line. I also don’t think Graham will ever be as effective as he was in a Saints uniform.

In addition to trading away Unger, Seattle could have spent that pick to improve their line even further with players like Nick Morse, Donovan Smith and Jake Fischer still on the board at number 31. Even if they weren’t starters, they could end up with some good line depth. Especially with Gillman listed as questionable heading into the season. The only depth they have is the inconsistent Alvin Bailey. Had they gone that route, we would be looking at the Seahawks offensive line as a strength rather than a weakness.

Russell_Wilson
Wilson signed a four-year $87.6 million contract this offseason.

Over time, this offensive line can develop some chemistry and gain confidence. This was not the start they needed or one that should have happened. Seattle did not have a proper contingency plan in place to deal with these major losses. Instead, they brought in Graham, who does not fit the system at all. On top of that, the Seahawks just invested a ton of money in Wilson, but what good is that if he consistently finds himself on his back. Wilson is definitely mobile enough to avoid the pressure but he cannot be counted to do that on every play.

The Seahawks panicked after the Super Bowl and tried to make a major change. If you ask me, Seattle just greatly shortened their championship window. Marshawn Lynch probably won’t play more than another two years in the league and now Seattle is trying to recreate their offensive line rather than making that push to win another title.

The saying goes though, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. Clearly that wasn’t something John Schneider heard enough in Seattle.

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The NFL All-Disappointment Team

The NFL is an ever-changing playing field. Players adapt. Coaches adapt. The game adapts. Each season is different and it takes a special kind of athlete to keep up with the changes.

We’ve heard so much about the players who are destined for breakout seasons, but we haven’t quite thought about those primed for a major collapse.

The bottom line is these five players who were stars in 2014 will regress during the coming season. They will not put up the same production as they did a year ago.

DeSean_Jackson5. DeSean Jackson, Washington
Well he obviously isn’t able to produce with a hamstring injury, but let’s not pretend that is the reason why DeSean Jackson will regress in 2015.

Jackson finished last season with over 1,100 yards receiving. That was due in large part to his absurd 20.9 yards per catch. That number would be very tough for him to reproduce this season even if Washington had a competent quarterback under center.

If Washington’s first game was any indication, it looks like it will be focusing more on keeping the ball on the ground this year. Jay Gruden’s team ran the ball more than anyone other than the 49ers. That does not bode well for Jackson.

Jimmy_Graham4. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Viewed as one of the biggest moves of the offseason, Jimmy Graham was supposed to be a major asset to this Seahawks offense.

Graham has immense talent but he also had plenty of opportunities to catch the ball in New Orleans. In his five years in the  Bayou, Drew Brees finished in the top three in passing attempts every season. Meanwhile, since 2012, when Russell Wilson entered the league, Wilson has attempted 727 fewer passes than Brees.

Marshawn Lynch is the centerpiece of the offense in the Pacific Northwest and Graham’s presence does not change that. I do not think he will replicate the production he had last year in New Orleans. He simply will not have enough opportunities to produce at that level.

Peyton_Manning3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Peyton doesn’t need to be his vintage self for the Broncos to make the playoffs. This defense has shown through two games that it more than capable of holding its own and winning Denver football games.

Already, Manning has thrown already two pick-sixes on the year and his completion percentage is down to 59. His yards per game average is down by roughly 80 yards as well. His throws are no longer as crisp, which makes you wonder how much longer he can really hold up.

He is still Peyton Manning, and looked it at the end of Thursday’s game, so he will have a decent year. By his own standards though, he will definitely finish below average.

C._J._Anderson2. CJ Anderson, Denver Broncos
Say hello to the 2015 version of Montee Ball. Anderson is following very closely in his predecessor’s footsteps. He had a great run to end 2014, averaging about 96 yards per game during the second half of the year. Everyone figured that it would carry over into this season.

However, through two games this year, Anderson has amassed 56 yards on the ground on a meager 2.3 yards per carry.

Denver, for as long as I can remember, tends to ride the hot hand in their backfield. We’re already seeing Ronnie Hillman vulture carries from Anderson and it’s only been two weeks. Anderson might have a few good weeks here or there but he will not consistently be a bellcow runner that the Broncos can rely on with confidence.

DeMarco Murray1. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
Murray was great last season because of his dependability. He averaged 5.03 yards per touch and thrived on 28.1 touches per game. However, Monday night saw Murray struggle to 1.67 yards per touch on just 12 touches. That is far from dependable.

There is simply no way that Murray replicates his production from a season ago. It would have been hard if he had stayed in Dallas running behind the league’s best offensive line. Now, he doesn’t even have those Pro Bowl blockers clearing the way.

I doubt Murray will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. The Eagles threw the ball 52 times on Monday and kept it on the ground 16. That play calling is not conducive to Murray being a productive running back.

Note: All stats used in this article are from pro-football-reference.com. All images are from commons.wikimedia.org.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

Patriots Logo

1. New England Patriots (Last week: 2)
Impressive week one victory from the offense. Questionable performance from the defense. Antonio Brown put up some crazy numbers. This defense is not the same that it was last year but it will probably need to play a little better than it did on Thursday to keep winning games for the Pats.

Packers logo2. Green Bay Packers (Last week: 3)
It wasn’t exactly convincing after a shaky start in Chicago but the Packers still got the win. James Jones is already proving to be a nice addition. However, giving up 141 yards on 24 carries to Matt Forte is concerning, especially with Sam Barrington set to miss the season.

Denver_Broncos3. Denver Broncos (Last week: 5)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Broncos got the job done. The offense is in limbo right now, trying to find it’s identity, but if the defense plays like it did against the Ravens, Denver won’t need much offense to win. The move up is more due to those in front of them floundering.

Colts logo4. Indianapolis Colts (Last week: 1)
They came, they saw, they absolutely fell apart. The offense sputtered. The defense also look porous as Tyrod Taylor and the Bills ground game beat the Colts into submission. Next up, similar style team in the Jets and Luck will be without his favorite target T.Y. Hilton. Could this nightmare for Indy really continue?

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)5. Arizona Cardinals (Last week: 7)
Boy were the Cardinals happy to have Carson Palmer back. Of course, they also lost Andre Ellington in the process of Sunday’s win. Chris and David Johnson now have much bigger roles going forward in keeping this offense balanced.

Cowboys logo6. Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 6)
Tony Romo came up clutch once again for America’s team in a huge win over the Giants. The win came at a hefty price though as Dez Bryant will now miss the next 4 to 8 weeks of play. That might just dash Dallas’ chances of repeating as division champs.

Seahawks logo7. Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 4)
Rough does not even begin to describe week 1 for Seattle. The loss to the division rival Rams is bad enough. On top of that, the 49ers and Cardinals both had convincing wins against NFC opponents. Not how you want to open as defending NFC champions.

Chiefs Logo8. Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 8)
The Chiefs started out on fire and then slowly cooled off the rest of the game. After scoring 27 in the first half, they failed to score again, while allowing the Texans to pull within a touchdown. If they can put two halves together of good football, they will beat Denver tomorrow.

Bengals Logo9. Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 13)
Beating up on the Raiders really isn’t that impressive but it is a lot better than having played a close game with Oakland. Cincy was firing on all cylinders this weekend. And with the struggles we saw from the rest of the AFC North, the Bengals have to be feeling good about themselves.

Bills logo10. Buffalo Bills (Last week: 17)
So Rex Ryan moves to 2-0 against Andrew Luck after pulling off the upset of the week. The Bills looked legit as the defense lived up to its billing and the offense was effective. Now the real test comes in a visit to Foxborough on Sunday.

Dolphins logo11. Miami Dolphins (Last week: 12)
Not the best season opening performance but it proved to be enough against Washington. The secondary came up big but that vaunted front seven got gashed for 161 yards. That needs to change and change quickly.

Eagles Logo12. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 9)
They lost, but barely. Philly was in this game until the very end and were a Cody Parkey field goal away from stealing a win on the road in Atlanta. That running game needs a lot of work though if the Eagles want to stand a chance against Dallas this weekend.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 10)Pittsburgh_Steelers logo
Well they found out that not covering the best tight end in football was a bad idea. Rob Gronkowski torched the Steelers’ defense all night long. They are transitioning into a new system but it needs to happen a whole lot faster if Pittsburgh wants to return to the postseason.

Chargers logo14. San Diego Chargers (Last week: 16)
They got the win, but I still don’t trust them. San Diego needed a huge comeback to win week 1 and can be thankful that Phillip Rivers had enough poise to do it. Danny Woodhead might have scored two TDs but 3.2 yards per carry is not going to cut it from the running game.

Vikings logo15. Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 11)
Well I put my faith in Minnesota and they didn’t exact reward me for it. Teddy Bridgewater looked spastic trying to get the ball out in San Francisco and that Peterson guy did next to nothing on the ground. Defense and special teams kept the Vikings in it for as long as they could, but at some point the offense has to deliver.

Ravens logo16. Baltimore Ravens (Last week: 15)
My worries of the Ravens not having a receiver to turn to other than Steve Smith Sr. seem to be warranted. Marlon Brown led the team in receiving with 25 yards. It gets worse too with Terrell Suggs set to miss the whole season. And with all of that, they still almost beat Denver on the road.

Lions Logo17. Detroit Lions (Last week: 14)
I wondered which Matthew Stafford would show up and the answer was the extremely inconsistent one who costs his team football games. The Lions had a 21-3 lead in this game and blew it, partly because of Stafford, partly because of a defense that allowed 404 passing yards. Either way, not a good way to open the year.

Falcons logo18. Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 19)
Good first showing from the Falcons on Monday night. Dan Quinn has already left his mark on this vastly improved defense. Still a work in progress but off to a strong start. Oh and Julio Jones is a monster. You cannot leave that man in single coverage ever.

Rams logo19. St. Louis Rams (Last week: 23)
The defensive line in St. Louis might just be the best in football. They sacked Russell Wilson six times on Sunday and just generally wrecked havoc. Nick Foles came up big too against a usually prolific secondary. The Rams showed they mean business this year.

Jets logo20. New York Jets (Last week: 20)
Jets fans had to be a little scared after Johnny Manziel bombed a touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin to put Cleveland on top. New York didn’t panic though and calmly stuck with their game plan to run the ball and mix in the pass. And it worked.

49ers Logo21. San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 26)
Returning only half of their starters from a season ago? That didn’t seem to phase the 49ers as they simply dominated the Vikings. From the first drive of the game, San Francisco came out with something to prove. They still have some mistakes to clean up but it was a very good week 1 showing.

Texans logo22. Houston Texans (Last week: 18)
So much for a legendary defense. The Texans buckled down in the second half but after allowing 27 points in the first half, the deficit was too much to over come. Oh and the quarterback controversy continues as Ryan Mallet came in and clearly out played Brian Hoyer after halftime.

Panthers logo23. Carolina Panthers (Last week: 24)
They won yes, but at a big price if Luke Keuchley winds up missing any time. Carolina’s offense looked to be fairing ok without Kelvin Benjamin, but they will need to protect Cam Newton with J.J. Watt and friends set to visit this week.

Giants Logo24. New York Giants (Last week: 22)
Well it was close to a win but that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Giants had a great chance to seal the deal but couldn’t punch it in. Apparently, they might not have wanted to score but New York still failed to stop Tony Romo, even without Dez Bryant, on the ensuing game-winning drive. So that plan obviously failed.

Saints logo25. New Orleans Saints (Last week: 21)
Drew Brees lit it up against a strong Cardinals defense. Unfortunately, he got no help from the ground game as they managed 54 yards on 20 attempts. And if someone figures out what happened to the 2013 Saints defense, tell Rob Ryan cause they have been reeling ever since.

Browns logo26. Cleveland Browns (Last week: 25)
There wasn’t much more you could’ve asked for out of Johnny Manziel in his first appearance of 2015. He was thrown in mid game and provided a spark for the Browns offense. He showed off his playmaking ability and, regardless of Josh McCown’s health, should be the starter moving forward.

Titans logo27. Tennessee Titans (Last week: 31)
Role out the welcome wagon for Marcus Mariota, who lobbed four touchdown passes in the first half and actually got to take a seat with his team dominating the game. The Titans got off to a good start and could move to 2-0 if they can dispatch the lowly Browns.

Raiders logo28. Oakland Raiders (Last week: 27)
Raiders fans were praying Derek Carr’s injury wasn’t serious. For once, the Football Gods didn’t punish Oakland as Carr looks set to play this weekend. However, after watching what Baltimore did to Peyton Manning, Carr might want to think about taking the week off.

Bears logo29. Chicago Bears (Last week: 28)
Well Jay Cutler certainly played like…well himself. Completing only 50 percent of his passes and throwing the game-clinching interception definitely didn’t do much to improve his standing with the Bears’ faithful.

Jaguars logo30. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 29)
Jacksonville always seems like it is gearing up to finally turn the corner, but never actually succeeds in doing so. Blake Bortles was sacked 5 times and threw two picks. The offense still has a lot of work to do before they start wining games.

Washington made up logo31. Washington (Last week: 32)
Washington moves up, but only due to Tampa’s inability to play football. Alfred Morris showed he came ready to play on Sunday but now Washington must welcome the upstart Rams sans DeSean Jackson.

Buccaneers logo32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last week: 30)
It couldn’t have gotten much worse for Tampa. Perceived as the favorite in this match up of the two worst teams from a season ago, the Bucs were blown out of the water by Tennessee. For whatever it’s worth though, Brett Favre also threw a pick six on his first career passing attempt.

Remembering Moses

Sad news reached those in the NBA community on Sunday. Hall of Famer Moses Malone passed away at the age of 60. Malone was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and became the first ever player to jump from high school to the pros. His passing inspired me to rank the five greatest centers the NBA has ever seen. Let’s see if you agree.

Honorable Mention: Bill Russell, Celtics

Hakeem Olajuwon5. Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets
This man spent 17 dominant years in Houston, racking up boards and rejecting shots. Olajuwon won back to back titles with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. He currently sits tenth all-time for point in a career and fifth among centers. The Houston legend also holds the record for most blocks in an NBA career by a considerable margin. He posted a stellar shooting percentage as well hitting 51.2 percent for his career. Olajuwon was at his peak from 1992 to 1996, when he averaged 27 points per game along with 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game over a four-year period. Following the 1994 season, he was named the league MVP. That resume got him into the Hall of Fame as well. There is no doubt that Olajuwon deserves to be on this list.

Moses_Malone4. Moses Malone, 76ers
He was known for playing in a lot of different places but his time in Philadelphia was probably his most notable. His first year in Philly, Malone put up the ridiculous stat line of 24.5 points, 15.3 boards and 2 swats a night over the course of the 1982 season, ending in MVP honors. He and the Sixers went on to take home the NBA title that year. Before moving to Philly, Malone was like Olajuwon; Moses spent some time in Houston where he won his first two MVP awards. He still ranks fifth in history in rebounds. Malone retired in 1995 and was, at the time, the third best scorer of all-time. The two men he was still behind are further up on this list. Rest in peace, Chairman of the Boards.

Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O'Neal 1999 (1999 - 2000 Season)3. Shaquille O’Neal, Lakers
Probably one of the most famous players in the last two decades, Shaq terrorized teams with his monster dunks and enormous size. He is obviously a bit of a goof in the media nowadays and is often remembered for the last few years he played where he didn’t do much. However, O’Neal dominated the NBA during his time in both Orlando and Los Angeles. From 1993 to 2003, Shaq averaged at least 26.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He dominated the league for a decade, including 1999 in LA when he posted 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds and three blocks a night resulting in him being named the MVP for that season. He won three straight titles with the Lakers and picked up a fourth in Miami a few years later. Shaq is currently the NBA’s sixth leading scorer all-time but probably ranks as the third best center to wear a Lakers’ uniform.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
You could argue he should be number one. After all he played 20 seasons in the NBA and is the league’s all-time leading -scorer. He also has the third most rebounds and the third most blocks ever. “The Dream” as he was called, holds the record as well for the most MVP awards with six in his long career. He also won six league titles over the course of his two decades of play. However, Abdul-Jabbar also played alongside some of the other greatest players of all-time. He played for six years in Los Angeles before they finally won a title. They finally won when Magic Johnson showed up and later James Worthy joined them. He carried the Bucks to the title in ’71 but he had a lot of help winning the rest of the titles. Help was something the number one man on our list neither had nor needed.

Wilt Chamberlain1. Wilt Chamberlain, 76ers/Warriors
With Abdul-Jabbar’s resume, you have to wonder how he is not number one on this list. Let me tell you why. Wilt Chamberlain dominated basketball when he played. Between 1959 and 1966, Chamberlain scored less than 33.5 points per game once. He might only have four MVP awards to Abdul-Jabbar’s six but Chamberlain had a much more impressive career. He won MVP following his rookie campaign, which is unheard of. He then went on to score 50.4 points per game during the 1961 season. Later in his career, his scoring dropped down to much more reasonable numbers but that was more because he became an excellent passer. Chamberlain averaged 8.6 assists per game in 1967, while still scoring 24.1 points a night. That year, the 76ers won the championship and represented the middle of Wilt’s three straight years as the MVP. If that hasn’t sold you enough, compare their per game stats where Chamberlain averaged 6.5 more points and 11.7 more rebounds per game than Abdul-Jabbar. He remains the NBA’s all-time leader in rebounds and still holds the record for most points in a game. Without a doubt, I am picking Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain as the greatest center to ever take the floor in NBA history.

Note: Back in the time of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, blocks were not an official NBA stat, so their is no data on how well the two protecting the rim.

Murray made a major mistake

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray has to be reconsidering his decision to leave Dallas right now.

Murray jumped ship on the Cowboys after the 2014 season, despite winning the Offensive Player of the Year Award and leading the league in both rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. He credited his decision to feeling undervalued by the Cowboys. He wanted to be paid an exorbitant amount of money, which Dallas could not provide after signing Dez Bryant to a huge deal.

So Murray went north to the City of Brotherly Love to join Chip Kelly and the new look Eagles. People were excited to see Murray in the fast paced offense and Murray was pleased to be paid like the franchise running back he thought he deserved to be.

The signing made a ton of sense for the Eagles as well. They had just traded their lead back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso. However, Philly also went out and signed Ryan Mathews as well from San Diego to add to the stable of runners that featured Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles.

I had concerns about Murray in this new Eagles offense. First, he was going from a team that sold out on the run to a team that loved to throw the ball. He also went from having the league’s best offensive line to a line that featured two new starters. Murray also had 390 carries in 2014 and no running back has excelled the following season after toting the ball that many times.

Demarco_MurrayHeading into tonight, I was apprehensive as to how Murray would play. I figured he would have decent success though as the Eagles faced the Falcons who had the league’s worst defense a year ago. I kind of expected though that he would see fewer touches because they wanted to pace him for the season and because both Mathews and Sproles would vulture some carries.

However, I hardly expected that Murray would only run the ball eight times in the game. I was shocked even more that he only picked up nine yards on those eight carries. He did catch the ball four times but only picked up 11 yards there. So on the night, Murray finished with a miserable 1.67 yards per touch. That is a far cry from a season ago when he averaged 5.03 yards per touch.

He still scored twice but both times were in short yardage situations. You also cannot count on him scoring two touchdowns every week. Without that second touchdown, the stat line seems a lot less impressive. He will no doubt get opportunities to score in the Philly offense. He just cannot think he will put up the same ground production.

Obviously, it is a very small sample size for Murray and the Eagles but it was not an encouraging start. Either way, Murray made the wrong call when he chose which team. He obviously got paid more but by putting his pride ahead of his production. There is no way Murray will every be as productive as he was going away from Dallas. It was the best spot in the league for a running back. The defense was sturdy and the offense often got them leads early on. That led to plenty of situations for Murray to run the clock behind a bulldozing offensive line.

The Eagles on the other hand, tend throw the ball a ton and Murray has never been known for being a premier pass catcher. That means that Kelly will often sub him off on obvious passing downs. The offensive line also isn’t as reliable. There is just no way Murray is in a better situation. His wallet is just a bit more swollen. He passed up the chance to make a title run with the Cowboys, who, had they retained Murray, would be a popular pick to win the NFC.

He could go on to have a really good year, but in my mind, unless he eclipses his numbers from last year or the Eagles go deeper into the playoffs than the Cowboys, I will definitely chalk this up as a selfish mistake by DeMarco Murray.