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In May I started a series on the collective bargaining agreement that governs players and teams in the NFL, however that series was sidetracked in the wake of the news surrounding the Seattle Seahawks signing of defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah and Al Woods. Getting back to the series for fans who would like to better understand what the CBA is and some of the details of the rules that govern the actions of the league. I left off with Article 2 after covering Article 1, and so today we’ll go ahead and move into Article 3.

Article 3 is extremely simple, as it just lays out that both the NFL and the NFL Players Association agree that neither side will take actions to initiate a work stoppage during the period of time that the CBA is in effect. With the current CBA having gone into effect prior to the 2011 season and running for ten years, that means that fans are assured of having their football through the 2020 season.

However, with the expiration of the CBA set for March 2021, either the union could strike or the owners could lockout the players at that time. Obviously, we’ve already seen posturing from both the players and the owners over the past couple of months, with the league reportedly pushing for an expansion of the regular season to 18 games and the union urging members to make sure they have enough money saved to withstand a long work stoppage.

In addition, Article 3 also includes the agreement that neither side will bring any action against the other for anything that transpired prior to the adoption of the new CBA. There was one exception carved out for this, with grievances which were eligible under the prior CBA still eligible to be litigated. Further, the CBA specifically notes that any grievance, including both injury and non-injury grievances, would be allowed to be carried through the adoption of the new CBA and could be litigated, as neither party was waiving that right.

While this seems fairly simple, boring and meaningless, it’s part of how the league was able to effectively push some salary cap space into the old CBA, reducing the owners expenses under the new agreement. For those who do not remember, when the prior CBA expired, the 2010 season had been an uncapped year, and some owners tried to take advantage of that, specifically the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, to eat future dead money by releasing players in 2010. The league responded with penalties for the two teams that combined to eat up $46M in cap space during the term of the new CBA, even though the league had no cap in the year when the teams incurred the dead money.

In any case, the next step in this series will be to move into Article 4 and look at player contracts and how they’re set up.

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Now that OTAs have concluded, we still haven’t fully answered the question of who these Seattle Seahawks are. Some recent events add to the confusion:

1) The Legion of Boom is now gone, along with the swagger that defined Seattle and captivated the country. Once Doug Baldwin and Frank Clark joined the exodus, the current voice of the Hawks are less fire and more … polite.

2) Pete Carroll spent all of 2017 telling us that they were a run-first team, a ground-and-pound ball control team. Seattle then spent much of 2017 not doing any of that. They ended with a meager 101 rush yards per game and a league-low four touchdowns. Jimmy Graham, Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell helped create the offensive identity crisis that resulted in:

3) The 2018 Draft. GM John Schneider helped Carroll doubled down on his philosophy last year, taking a RB, best-in-class blocking TE, and world-beating punter in the first six picks. They were determined for the Seahawks to be a run-heavy, defensive-minded team excelling at field possession. Coaching changes Mike Solari and Brian Schottenheimer pointed not towards a new direction, but the direction Carroll always wanted to go.

4) However, the team philosophy hit a rather deflating roadblock in the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys. Was Seattle the more talented team? Not really, but the run game that day left a lot to be desired, and the defense faltered at some crucial third downs.

5) Two post-playoff events have brought the Seahawk identity question back to the surface. First were Duane Brown’s comments about better utilizing Russel Wilson. Second is the magnitude of Wilson’s contract. Does it make sense for a $140 million dollar man to take mid-twenties passing attempts?

Bonus confusion – John Clayton boldly declared that we will all get to witness Russell Wilson throwing to DK Metcalf, the best rookie since Russell Wilson, and I’ve already heard AJ Green-type hopes coming from the 12s.

Before answering some of these questions, a trip around the NFL provides some valuable perspective. All of the above pales in comparison with some of the dumpster fires happening in the league right now. Seattle has no drama (pending Bobby Wagner’s contract), no holdouts, no more players who dislike the QB, no cap space issues, and only one player who may or may not go to prison. It’s an enviable position, all things considered.

NY JetsNow the second team in the modern NFL to fire their GM after the draft and before the season begins. They spent an absurd amount of money (thanks for creating the Wagner contract issue!), and have left new coach Adam Gase with far too many problems to be comfortable.

Oakland Raiders – If you’re looking to rebuild a franchise with players of high character, you might not want to begin with a locker room full of Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, and Richie Incognito. A sincere good luck to anyone on that team just trying to have a peaceful game. Or practice. The Raiders are also about to move cities and have created considerable animosity with their fan base.

NY Giants – Rank these in terms of rational decision making: how they handled Odell Beckham, their number-six draft selection, or the commitment to Eli Manning.

Arizona Cardinals – Gave up on a head coach and top draft pick after one year apiece. Whatever their identity is, nobody knows, including the Cardinals. Now they’re heading into the season with a questionable defense, sans their best defensive player Patrick Peterson for a third of the year.

The point is, It could be much, much worse in Seattle. Not only is it hard to get 53 players plus coaches, fans, and management to buy into a team philosophy, it’s hard to even commit to one.

Coach Pete has a plan, and it worked well before. They got away from it, and they suffered because of that — not necessarily because one plan is better or worse than the other but maybe because being confused about your identity can lead to confusing decisions. Now the critical mass is moving in the old direction once again.

Yes, for many, questions remain. The leaders, voices, and franchise faces will not be the same players (or even position groups) as they were five years ago. But if the Seahawks’ biggest issue is who will get the ball more — Chris Carson or Russell Wilson – I think that’s something we can be patient with this season. Seattle is not trapped in the “fix it now” mentality that so many teams around the league are. This feels more like a team who’s gearing up for another long haul.

Consider, alongside our first list:


1) Carroll and Schneider have not shied away one bit from getting “their guys.” Sure, they say that a lot, but that didn’t stop them from raving about LJ Collier being their type of player. These last couple of classes in the draft and free agency do seem to bring a “chip-on-the-shoulder” mentality that many previous selections and signings had. From D.K. Metcalf going later than expected in the draft to Al Woods considered an afterthought at defensive tackle on the market.

2) After a Week 3 come-to-Jesus meeting, Seattle found their stride and led the league in rushing yards, finished second in attempts and fourth in first downs.

3) While the 2018 draft focused on the run game, this year’s draft feels addresses the other areas of Carroll’s philosophy. They took hard-hitting defensive players with the first two picks, and Metcalf, the receiver some regard as the best deep threat in the draft.

4) The question I felt most strongly after the Dallas playoff game was if Carroll’s philosophy is fundamentally flawed, or if they simply didn’t have the talent to execute it properly. Flawed philosophies don’t consistently get to the playoffs, and they don’t generally improve records after losing Hall of Fame-type players. I think the offense was close, the defense needed a little improvement, and the offensive play-calling could have been just a touch more flexible.

5) It’s worth noting that Seattle is able to be such a dominant running team because Wilson can be so efficient; the offense can get a lot done in 25-30 pass attempts and we know that passing it 40+ times doesn’t often signal that you have a winning offense (Andrew Luck appearance here). Historically, two of his greatest strengths have been surviving a bad offensive line (which they have had), and pinpoint deep passes (of which he has thrown many). Point is, he doesn’t need a pristine pocket for 50 attempts to play his best.

I believe that Carroll has the team right where he wants it. He does not seem to have backed down because of last season’s playoff exit and the Seahawks still exceeded expectations with so many young and unproven starters. Seattle’s offensive identity as a running team has consistently gotten them into the playoffs as a real threat from 2012 to 2015 — it’s now a matter of questioning if that philosophy screwed them in the three years since or if it was a matter of poor execution. When it works, the Seahawks have proven to be a top-10 scoring team that has even been the number one offense in the NFL by DVOA. With the most experienced offensive line that Carroll has had in his 10 years as the head coach and Rashaad Penny going into his second season, the Hawks might even improve on a rushing offense that ranked sixth in DVOA and fifth in yards per carry. They also protected the ball in the way that Carroll emphasizes (fewest turnovers in the NFL) and Wilson posted a career-high 110.9 passer rating.

Even third down defense, which at times felt like a weakness, especially in the playoff game, was a top-5 mark at 35% conversion. They may not have a stifling, defense, but they’re not far from becoming elite. When it comes to their play, the differences between the Super Bowl Seahawks and the current iteration may be smaller than we think even if the players are noticeably much different; the differences are actually slight but also important.

In terms of style, long-time fans will have to embrace the new-look Seahawks for who they are. The brashness, leadership, and culture are being built from new groups. The offensive line could be emerging as an area of .... strength, actually? There are new faces, relatively new coaches, and different expectations than the 2013-2016 seasons, but the type of football being played could end up being quite nostalgic of those times.

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Gerald McCoy is staying in the NFC South.

While the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns were the frontrunners to sign the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle, the third team in consideration ended up agreeing to a deal with McCoy. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Monday that McCoy’s contract with the Carolina Panthers is one-year and worth up to $10.25 million.

Panthers are giving DT Gerald McCoy a one-year deal worth up to $10.25 million that includes a $4 million signing bonus, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 3, 2019

The Panthers freed up some cap space by releasing left tackle Matt Kalil and restructuring WR Torrey Smith’s contract.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport then broke down how the $10.25 million value worked itself out.

The full breakdown of Gerald McCoy’s deal with the #Panthers: 1 year, $4M to sign, $3M base, $500K camp roster bonus, $500K in 45-man per game bonus. Plus, 6.5 sacks for $500k, 8 sacks gets him $1.5M. 250K for Pro Bowl, $250K for playoffs. Just $4M guaranteed. Total: Up $10.25M.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 3, 2019

The Buccaneers were set to pay McCoy $13 million for the final season of his contract, and with no suitable trade partners, they released the six-time Pro Bowl selection outright. Now he’ll be facing his former team twice this season, which I’m sure Bucs fans are elated to hear.

Carolina has spent a king’s ransom on its defensive line, which had a very poor pass rush last season. The McCoy signing means they’ve spent the most money at that position in the NFL.

This presumably puts the Panthers at over $60 million spent on the defensive line in 2019, which is more than $10 million more than 2nd place. Seahawks are set to spend $20 million on DL, with more than 40% of that going to Ansah https://t.co/uY5mihWRuO

— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) June 3, 2019

...And who are they paying for, you may be asking? Well the big names here are Kawann Short and Gerald McCoy, but also veterans Dontari Poe and ex-Seahawk Bruce Irvin, as well as rookies Brian Burns and Christian Miller.

Panthers projected defensive front includes:
* DT Kawann Short
* DT Dontari Poe
* DT Gerald McCoy
* DE Brian Burns
* DE Bruce Irvin
* DT Vernon Butler
* DE Mario Addison
* DE Christian Miller

Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson play making behind them.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 3, 2019

Just for the record, the Seahawks are at the Carolina Panthers in Week 15.

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Welcome to Revenge Week across the SB Nation NFL blogs! The theme is focused on revenge games or players looking to exact revenge on former teams. You damn well know how we’re going to start off our Revenge Week.

One of my all-time favorite songs is a lesser-known hit titled “Every Kinda People” by the late Robert Palmer. Here’s one of the lines before breaking into the chorus:

There is no profit in deceit. Honest men know that revenge does not taste sweet.

Well with all due respect to Mr. Palmer, in the world of sport and especially NFL football, a reasonably honest man such as myself knows that revenge can often taste absolutely fucking delicious.

As I write this column on June 3rd, 2019, we are exactly four months away from the Seattle Seahawks’ Week 5 showdown with the Los Angeles Rams. It’ll be a Thursday Night Football primetime home game in front of an expectant boisterous crowd at CenturyLink Field. The rematch in LA is on Sunday Night Football in Week 14, but the season could play out as such that it might get flexed to 1 PM.

This figures to be a pivotal early season matchup, but it means something extra for the Seahawks, who have lost three straight to their NFC West rivals. Dating back to 2015, they are just 2-6 against the Rams, and 1-3 at home during that span. Once upon a time the Seahawks had such overwhelming dominance over the Rams that they went undefeated from 2005-2009.

Sean McVay’s squad will enter the 2019 season as two-time defending NFC West champions and the reigning kings of the NFC. They also scored just three points in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, which will never not be funny. Now my latest potshot at them aside, the rebirth of the Rams as a legitimate contender has arguably re-fueled the rivalry with Seattle.

In 2017, Seattle went into Los Angeles and pulled out an ugly as hell but super satisfying 16-10 win. We shall not speak of what happened in the rematch. Last season, with the Seahawks pegged by many to miss the playoffs and the Rams as overwhelming favorites to make the Super Bowl, Seattle traded haymakers in both matchups. Russell Wilson threw six touchdowns and had just one turnover over the course of the two games. Chris Carson rushed for more than 100 yards at home, while Rashaad Penny had his breakout game down at the LA Coliseum. David Moore had a two-touchdown day at CLink, while Tyler Lockett scored TDs in each meeting. Unfortunately, none of these things mattered, as the Rams offense was too much for the Seahawks defense to handle. The combined score of 2018’s games was 69-62 Los Angeles, which sure went a long way towards the Rams repeating as division champions.

I don’t know about you, but I particularly don’t like losing to the Rams at any point in time. This rivalry isn’t just Jeff Fisher’s annoying 7-9 bullshit, or McVay putting on schematic masterpieces while Jared Goff isn’t actually pressed into thinking for himself; the history between these two franchises since Seattle moved over to the NFC West runs pretty damn deep.

Remember the 2003 Seahawks? They went 8-0 at home and a dismal 2-6 on the road. Perhaps they could’ve been 3-5 if an official didn’t act as an extra DB by tackling Bobby Engram on an end-zone shot.

Seahawks AT Rams 2003 highlights - YouTube

The Rams are also the only team to ever beat the Seahawks at (what we now know as) CenturyLink Field in the playoffs. Their 3-0 sweep in 2004 turned what looked to be a promising Seahawks season into another disappointing and bitter ending. I’m sure older Seahawks fans remember Terreal Bierria for all the wrong reasons.

2004 Rams @ Seahawks Highlights [Week 5] - YouTube

Losing to the Rams sucks and has always sucked regardless of circumstances. Beating them is cause for celebration whether they’re awful or great. Remember when the eventual 10-6 Seahawks were on the cusp of a horrendous defeat to an eventual 3-13 St. Louis squad playing in front of 95 people at the Edward Jones Dome? Then Gus Frerotte fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line on 4th and goal.

2007 Seahawks @ Rams Highlights [Week 12] - YouTube

Denying the Rams a touchdown at the goal line? You don’t say!

Fun Fact: All of the Seahawks’ NFC West titles under Pete Carroll have been clinched by beating the Rams, including in 2010 on a night when Charlie freaking Whitehurst was king for a day.

Can it be October 3rd already? Because I’m ready for the Seahawks to beat the Rams again.

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Analysts and writers who feel the need to make predictions with total conviction — that their opinions are in fact not opinions but infallible peeks into the future — are not football experts at all, but carnival barkers. Over a century of evidence in American sports alone tells us that as of yet nobody can predict what will happen in the next season or even the next game with any level of consistency that would make a reasonable person look twice. So there are no predictions in these previews of opponents of the 2019 Seattle Seahawks — only my thoughts and within those thoughts, an opinion of what I believe they will most likely look like in the coming year and straightforward updates on changes to the roster and coaching staff. But any team could be turning over 30% of their entire roster or 100% of their coaches and in some cases, a complete changeover in ownership and/or how they plan to run their franchise. That makes things even more volatile when looking ahead, especially with over three months to go until Week 1, but it’s worth a look ahead anyhow. These are my thoughts, some of which will be wrong, but if I didn’t believe my experience in evaluating football things was at least a little bit valuable, I wouldn’t be writing these. Hopefully that experience gives you a clearer picture of what to expect, while also expecting that these pictures could be erased at any moment.

The 2019 Baltimore Ravens

I think “underdog syndrome” has hit most of American football fans. In a poll I ran on Sunday, almost 70% of voters said that the Cleveland Browns were better than the Baltimore Ravens. Are they wrong? Well, if you think that I believe they’re wrong then you didn’t read the intro paragraph. (Probably fair given how long it is and that I post it in every preview.) But if you think the Browns are better than the Ravens and that you are right, then you’re potentially the type of person who judges articles by headlines without reading and movies by watching trailers and nothing more.

Or maybe you’re the type who values a good narrative over facts. It would be a lot more interesting to see Cleveland break a tradition of being awful for 50 years than it would be to see Baltimore — who are of course a piece of Browns’ future that never was meant to be in Cleveland — once again just be a very solid team that consistently has had a say in the AFC playoff races in nearly every season with John Harbaugh.

Since winning the Super Bowl in 2000, their fifth season as a Baltimore franchise, the Ravens have been to the playoffs 11 times in 19 years. Harbaugh helped lead them to the postseason in five of his first six seasons but since their surprising 2012 Super Bowl win, Baltimore has been to the postseason in only two of six opportunities with only one victory. Much of that failure has to fall on the commitment to Joe Flacco, who turned a good postseason run into over $100 million and a six-season run in which he had a rating of 82.3, averaging 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per year.

The Cincinnati Bengals finally fired Marvin Lewis.

The Browns finally have a quarterback.

The Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

And finally, Flacco is gone from Baltimore. The Ravens turned to Lamar Jackson after their Week 10 Bye and won six of their last seven games, turning from 4-5 into a wild card game against the LA Chargers. Jackson helped make a game of it, throwing two touchdowns in the final seven minutes and driving with under a minute to go and a six-point deficit, but fumbled away hopes of a comeback win. Still, fans were enthralled by the possibility of an NFL offense that could be centered around a quarterback of Jackson’s unique skills and I think we’re all pretty curious ....

Now what?

As hopeful as I am for Jackson, I’m even more worried for him. Not to loosely compare one offense against three others of different times but I’m going to anyway: the 2008 Miami Dolphins, the 2011 Denver Broncos, the 2013 San Francisco 49ers. Wildcat, Tim Tebow, and Colin Kaepernick. They all worked in short bursts one year and were virtually unusable shortly thereafter. Even if Kaepernick deserves a spot somewhere in the league, the pistol offense and Kaepernick’s ability to put up yards and points against most un-elite defenses were all but eliminated.

Rushing numbers for QBs have become ever important for fantasy value - and @ScottBarrettDFB highlights Lamar Jackson's success after being named the starter in Week 11 last yearhttps://t.co/c7BarDSxIV pic.twitter.com/FWGvQdSsGS

— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 3, 2019

However, there’s another comparison to be made between Kaepernick and Jackson: Greg Roman.

The Niners offensive coordinator from 2011-2014, Roman has been moved from being Harbaugh’s assistant head coach to offensive coordinator for next season. So Kaep and Jackson will now have the same person running their offenses and it’s certainly possible that Jackson is a better quarterback than Kaepernick. We don’t know that yet but maybe and while his passing was rather awful as a rookie, he was only 21 and getting his first action against real pro defenses. And Baltimore still went 6-1. He also rushed for 556 yards and four touchdowns in those seven games, putting him on a full season pace of 1,271 rushing yards, nine touchdowns on the ground, with 2,546 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

Theoretically, a quarterback who gains 3,800 yards and 20 touchdowns at age 21 or 22 would be a good thing. But can he lead an 80-yard touchdown drive when the team desperately needs it, as most championship teams tend to need? Can he improve his passing? Can any offense hope to succeed in the short or long term with a quarterback who rushes for half as many yards as he passes for? Can that quarterback stay healthy for a necessary amount of time? There are so many questions to a Jackson-led offense, but that’s also kind of what I love about it the most.

Baker Mayfield first 187 passes:
57.7% 5 tds 5 ints

Lamar Jackson threw 170 passes:
58.2% 6tds 3 ints

— Baker Mayfold (@SeasonStrap) May 30, 2019

What the anti-rushing self-proclaimed “nerds” don’t tend to address is a bit of a logical fallacy for me: how do teams win? It’s not by passing. It’s not by rushing. It’s not by trick plays. It’s not even by defense. It’s not by anything specific, in my opinion. It’s about being innovative. It’s about changing three years before everyone else does. It’s about finding market inefficiencies. It’s about turning left when everyone else assumes you should turn right. The Seattle Seahawks took the NFL by storm in 2012-2014 in large part because they weren’t playing by everyone else’s rules.

Lamar Jackson down 7 on the road vs hottest team in NFL, your rookie Qb would never! #RavensFlock imagine this with upgraded weapons and scheme pic.twitter.com/33Yt7egj0w

— Baker Mayfold (@SeasonStrap) June 3, 2019

Cornerbacks weren’t as big as they are today until Pete Carroll “exposed” that Richard Sherman was always a top-10 draft talent — it’s just that he wasn’t viewed that way by anyone but Seattle because only Carroll saw what Sherman was capable of on a defense because only Carroll, with his history of working with corners that dates back to the mid-70s, presumed to know that Sherman’s size was an advantage as long as he had the proper technique.

I’m just theorizing outloud here, but this could be why the Seahawks are constantly put on the “reaches” list following most drafts. “Why would Carroll think that so-and-so was a first or second round pick?” Well, back in 2010-2012, nobody tended to think once about what Carroll was doing in the draft and so Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Byron Maxwell could be had later on. Then in 2014, you see Stanley Jean-Baptiste (the “next Sherman”) went 58th overall. Does Jean-Baptiste go before the sixth round if he’s in the 2011 draft?

At this point, Carroll and John Schneider are likely more interested in just getting the players who fit their system than they are in always finding a steal (which they still try to do with versatile prospects who could be changing positions, a la Ugo Amadi or Jacob Martin or Tre Flowers) and they certainly couldn’t care less about what others think about what they do and when they do it. That means that sometimes Carroll needs to beat teams to the punch that are trying to beat him to the punch, something that I’m sure has happened quite a few times in the last five years because regardless what useless grades say, I believe the rest of the league highly respects what Seattle does in the draft.

And I also still believe that the rest of the league respects what Carroll does on the field and there are many parallels between the Seahawks and Ravens today.

In those Jackson games from Week 11-17, Baltimore rushed for a league-high 1,607 yards, eight touchdowns, and 5.1 YPC. In second place during that time span was Seattle at 1,190 yards, nine touchdowns, and 4.8 YPC. (In fourth place, the New England Patriots at 952/6/4.7 and in one less game, but tell me again how you know more about football than Carroll and Bill Belichick.)

Lot being made about Ravens "new" offense and what Lamar Jackson knows about it. Reality is they have studied RPOs at all levels, hosted a bunch of college coaches and this scheme is all about accentuating what he does best as he grows and develops

— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 26, 2019

Going back to what I was saying about “being innovative,” the reason that the Ravens won six of seven games with their only loss coming in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs — maybe 2018’s best NFL team — is that teams did not always know how to respond. Maybe with a full offseason to prepare, they will and Jackson will be stopped, but perhaps Carroll will be as ready as anyone because he also knows how to throw defenses off with a unique quarterback and a proficient rushing attack at a time when cornerbacks and pass rushers are valued much higher than run-stopping defensive tackles (like Al Woods) and All-Pro linebackers like Bobby Wagner.

The Seahawks faced the LA Rams — #1 in rushing DVOA — twice last season and narrowly lost both games. They weren’t great against Todd Gurley and company, but not as awful as the Cowboys, Broncos, and Cardinals were. The Carolina Panthers were second in rushing DVOA and Seattle held them to 75 yards on the ground in a pivotal midseason win that put the Seahawks squarely in front of the wild card hunt. Seattle also faced the teams ranked third (GB), fourth (KC), fifth (DEN), and seventh (LAC) in rushing DVOA, while they themselves were sixth.

So you could say that it was a rather brutal schedule of rushing offenses, which also means they were likely focusing on an improved rush defense when they drafted LJ Collier, traded Frank Clark, signed Woods, and I’m sure we’ll see more of that picture come into focus once training camp gets here. Getting more Poona Ford and possibly Mychal Kendricks, should he be available, could also line up with putting a stop on players like Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore rushing offense.

They most likely won’t face a single other team like the Ravens because there really isn’t a single other team like the Ravens, and I do not see why that’s necessarily a bad thing. Harbaugh has his most unique offense yet and given how awful they were trying to run a more traditional passing attack with the wholly underqualified Flacco, this might be the most dangerous Baltimore team yet. That doesn’t mean I’m betting against Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jr., Myles Garrett, and Denzel Ward, it just means that there is more to a football team than just the quarterback.

And we don’t know yet how good or bad of a quarterback either of these players really are quite yet. We can however look at the other 52-ish players and coaches.

———

Speaking of rushing, the New Orleans Saints were also a top-10 rushing team in 2018 and two-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram is now in Baltimore too. He joins Jackson, Gus Edwards (654 yards and 5.3 YPC from Week 11 on), Kenneth Dixon (5.6 YPC), and fourth round pick Justice Hill; Alex Collins was waived in March following an arrest in which a car crash, marijuana, and a handgun were allegedly involved.

A look at the 3-headed RB attack from the #Ravens practice:

#35 GUS EDWARDS
#21 MARK INGRAM
#43 JUSTICE HILL pic.twitter.com/bKWkBy7KZI

— PirateLife Football (@PirateLifeFF) June 3, 2019

They play behind an offensive line of Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis/James Hurst/Ben Powers, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, and Orlando Brown. Ravens fans would like to see the rookie fourth rounder Powers win the job at left guard, and center isn’t totally solidified, but Stanley, Yanda, and Brown could be among the best at their current positions. Overall, if we’re just comparing the Ravens to the Browns, I think this is a much better bet at offensive line than what Cleveland has. They’re also specifically tuned to blocking for the ground attack and perhaps that does give them somewhat of an advantage, at least when the team is leading.

2019-20 season bold predictions: Offensive Line #RavensNation https://t.co/mMdYqqlY6V

— Ravens Talk (@Ravens_TT) June 3, 2019

Bisciotti on the running game: "We are very diverse" with Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram, and fast rookie Justice Hill. "I think that's going to make Lamar that much better."

— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) May 29, 2019

What about the receiving groups when they aren’t?

Michael Crabtree remains a free agent and Baltimore seems content with Willie Snead as the lone veteran receiver who seems likely to return and make the final roster. Snead had 658 yards and one touchdown, with 253 yards over the final eight games, including the wild card loss; there’s simply no way to avoid this thought but the Ravens might not have a player who eclipses 600 receiving yards next season. That does not seem to be something they’re worried about right now. The rest of the receivers includes six rookies, four of whom are undrafted free agents, and a few veterans who’ve been floating around.

First round pick Marquise Brown will have all the attention from fans and cornerbacks but as a rookie in a unique run-first system, I’m not expecting much in 2019. They next picked up Miles Boykin in round three, a 6’4, 220 lb receiver out of Notre Dame. Seth Roberts has consistently been around 450 yards in the last four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Chris Moore was a fourth round pick in 2016 and still sticking around for now. It might be a waste of time (for now) to talk about the rest of the receivers.

At tight end, 2018 first rounder Hayden Hurst dealt with a foot injury last August that plagued him throughout his rookie season. He still has great potential ahead, one could assume, but fellow 2018 rookie Mark Andrews helped make up for the loss by accumulating 34 catches and 552 yards. Andrews may have been Jackson’s best target in the stretch run, catching 13 of 20 targets for a passer rating of 125 and 15 yards per attempt. Andrews, Hurst, and Nick Boyle — a potentially elite blocking tight end — could on the down-low be the AFC’s best tight end group.

Mark Andrews is the receiver, Nick Boyle the blocker, Hayden Hurst the top pick. "Everyone in the room is good at different things," Andrews said today.

But the Ravens will be better off if their talented tight ends start to play more like each other. https://t.co/hBU5oyS2wD

— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) May 31, 2019

Again, I’d ask for a closer comparison between Baltimore and Cleveland that goes beyond just asking if Baker Mayfield is a better passer than Lamar Jackson. We can safely say that he is. Is he a better quarterback? Probably. Mayfield looks amazing. But what about the 10+ players around them? We know that Beckham and Jarvis Landry are an exciting 1-2 at receiver but the Ravens have really interesting pieces at offensive line, tight end, and running back, and those are also the positions they emphasize over receiver and quarterback.

You can disagree with the strategy but you can’t say that the Ravens aren’t doing their best to execute it.

Defensively, I would be hesitant to bet any team over Baltimore given their 20-year history of being consistently good-to-great on that side of the ball, let alone the Browns — even if I do think that Cleveland has an advantage on the defensive line.

———

It’s not as though Baltimore has a bad defensive line, though. Running a 3-4 under Don Martindale (second season as DC, eighth season under Harbaugh), the Ravens feature maybe the league’s best run-stuffer in Brandon Williams. They were sixth against the run last season by DVOA, third against the pass, and third overall. Baltimore was third in YPC allowed and second in net yards/pass attempt allowed. Yes, this defense was elite.

What people might point to though is the loss of sacks — something else that Seattle is also facing right now — among other defensive stars of note.

Za’Darius Smith took 8.5 sacks to Green Bay; Terrell Suggs took 7 sacks to Arizona; C.J. Mosley raised Wagner’s price tag as the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker went to the Jets; Eric Weddle, who went to three Pro Bowls in three years with the Ravens, went to the Rams. The cupboard is not bare though.

Next to Williams will be 2017 third rounders

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I’m going to start off by stating that fans who want facts and specifics can go ahead and close this story right now, because this is an attempt to look into the future by piecing together what little information is available. Most everybody knows that Mychal Kendricks and Damilare Sonoiki both plead guilty to one count of securities fraud (insider trading) and one count of conspiracy to commit insider trading last September, so since then it’s been a matter of awaiting sentencing.

For the most part, waiting is all that has been done. Kendricks was originally scheduled to be sentenced in December. But then his sentencing was rescheduled for January, then for April and is currently without a scheduled date after having been postponed indefinitely earlier this spring. As for anything new on his court case, there is nothing of note. One of the members of the team of attorneys that represented him is no longer on the case, but that appears to be because she received a promotion by moving to a new firm, so is not readily relevant to the situation for Kendricks.

However, there has been a development in the case of his co-defendant. Sonoiki had been looking at a sentencing date back in the spring, but as was widely reported back in March, that sentencing hearing has been pushed back to mid-July. That is an important fact to keep in mind when considering the most recent court filing in Sonoiki’s case.

In the beginning of May, Sonoiki petitioned the court for permission to travel. Following his guilty plea last September, Sonoiki had been required by the court to live with relatives in Texas pending his sentencing. However, in a filing on May 1, Sonoiki states that he is unemployed and there are limited jobs in the industry in which he has the most experience where he has been living in Texas. As such, he requested permission to travel outside of the state, specifically to the New York and Los Angeles areas, in order to seek employment and interview. On the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the court approved Sonoiki’s request to travel for the purposes of seeking employment.

That is where things get interesting for Kendricks. Sonoiki’s sentencing is scheduled for July 15, which is six weeks away. Someone who is traveling halfway across the country looking for work typically isn’t looking for a six week temporary assignment. Further, someone who is traveling halfway across the country is not typically planning on spending 15-21 months in federal prison. That would seem to indicate that Sonoiki is hoping to stay out of prison, potentially on a house arrest or work release type of sentence.

Bringing that back to Kendricks, the fact that his co-defendant is looking for what would seem to be long-term employment and the fact that the sentencing for Kendricks has not been rescheduled would appear to potentially indicate that the two sentences are likely related. As noted, both Kendricks and Sonoiki plead guilty to the exact same two felonies back in September, and so there is no reason, in legal terms, why their sentences would be different.

Thus, it appears that what may have happened is that at the status conference the judge held on the matter back in April that the team of lawyers for Kendricks proposed to the judge some sort of sentence that would avoid incarceration, at least during the season. The judge would likely inquire as to why Kendricks should be allowed house arrest while his co-defendant would be looking at prison, and that in the interest of fairness, the two should have the same sentence. If that is indeed the case, it would explain the request for permission to travel to seek work and offer a possible explanation as to why no sentencing date has yet been set for Kendricks.

So, based on this it appears that whether or not the Seahawks have Kendricks available this season may rely on both the judge in the case and the job hunt prospects for his co-defendant. Obviously, there is nothing definitive at this point, and all we can do is try to piece together something from the few available pieces of information that are publicly available. In any case, with Sonoiki’s sentencing set for mid-July, fans should at least have some kind of idea about the situation for Kendricks before the start of training camp.

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Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the hopefuls on the Seattle Seahawks’ 90-man roster. Seattle had 11 draft picks and made several significant moves in free agency. These are some simple thoughts on the new players and things to look for as we head into mini-camp on June 11th.

The Defensive Ends:

Ezekiel Ansah, Rasheem Green, Cassius Marsh, Quinton Jefferson, LJ Collier, Branden Jackson, Jacob Martin.

I’m adding Jacob Martin because that’s really what I believe he is on this team.

Leader of the pack – This one this year is tricky. The leader on the football field will be newcomer Ziggy Ansah, but he’s not going to give the speeches. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky is a former teammate of Ansah’s, and said his power is in his preparation. Ziggy will lead by elevating the standard of practice and ferocity on the field.

The vocal leader will hopefully be LJ Collier. LJ comes from a small town system where no one is an enemy and that close community creates friendship. Remember this is the guy who had so many people at his draft phone call that Pete Carroll could barely get in a word. He’s apparently very friendly and afraid of no one. Rookies take time to build influence but Collier has a magnetic personality and should gain it quickly.

Most to prove - Rasheem Green. Mid-third round picks are typically hoped on for more than 12.5 snaps per game. We’re still not sure why an impressive preseason didn’t translate to at least some consistent on-field production. At this point Green is on a narrow ridge with his future potential teetering between Naz Jones or Jarran Reed. Let’s hope this season he finds his way towards the latter.

Most to lose - Cassius Marsh. The tattoo king of the NFL is on a one year deal with nothing else guaranteed after his $600k signing bonus. It’s not really a prove-it deal as much as a hold-on deal. Marsh signed a $7.7 million contract with the 49ers last season, but was cut before most of it came to fruition in 2019. Before that, the Patriots traded a 5th round pick for his initial departure from Seattle, but the Pats cut him within two months. This is technically his fourth team in three years – playing for Seattle twice. If he doesn’t make the team or this season doesn’t go well, Marsh is running out of opportunities in the NFL.

Biggest factor in a playoff run - Jacob Martin. In a foreseeable scenario, Martin will be either the second or third most effective edge rusher behind Ansah and possibly Green. If he’s playing at a high level, the consistent rotational pressure Seattle will have at that point will be much stronger than what they’ve had in recent years. If neither Martin nor Green see a significant improvement this year, the Seahawks are effectively looking at Jarran Reed + one edge rusher, exactly what they had last season.

Best Sack CelebrationCassius Marsh. We never got to witness this the first time in Seattle, but apparently he’s been doing Taekwondo now? Hopefully we’ll get to see a few high kicks this year.

Last one cut: Branden Jackson. I think Seattle keeps five ends again this year, and without much cap space restraint even guys on rookie deals are in for an uphill battle. Though his contract is quite team friendly, this is a strong group on a supremely deep roster, and Jackson will get the ax to make room for more upside in other areas.

Best Madden 2020 Rating - Ziggy Ansah, 82. Downgraded a bit because of the shoulder concern, but respectable.

The two most important stats heading into 2019:

12 - Total INTs, only better than ten other teams. Yes I realize this a defensive line group. But when Seattle was shut down in the back end, those guys gave tons of credit to the guys in front. The Hawks excelled at fumble recovery last season, but did not place enough consistent pressure on opposing QBs to force similar value in secondary takeaways. With Clark gone, this could be more of the same unless guys step up.

19th out of all edge rushers, pass-rush efficiency percentage last year, Jacob Martin. As a 6th round selection in his rookie season, finishing that high in the NFL is incredibly impressive. If he maintains near that efficiency over a full season it will be huge for the Hawks’ defensive front.

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In addition to the great content you'll see on Field Gulls every day, sign up for a daily newsletter to come to your email every morning that will be a short and sweet post, thought, stat, quote, musing by Kenneth or one of his guests that requires little thought or commitment. Just a good way to bring a Seahawks companion to your morning of sippin' joe by the seaside.

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Analysts and writers who feel the need to make predictions with total conviction — that their opinions are in fact not opinions but infallible peeks into the future — are not football experts at all, but carnival barkers. Over a century of evidence in American sports alone tells us that as of yet nobody can predict what will happen in the next season or even the next game with any level of consistency that would make a reasonable person look twice. So there are no predictions in these previews of opponents of the 2019 Seattle Seahawks — only my thoughts and within those thoughts, an opinion of what I believe they will most likely look like in the coming year and straightforward updates on changes to the roster and coaching staff. But any team could be turning over 30% of their entire roster or 100% of their coaches and in some cases, a complete changeover in ownership and/or how they plan to run their franchise. That makes things even more volatile when looking ahead, especially with over three months to go until Week 1, but it’s worth a look ahead anyhow. These are my thoughts, some of which will be wrong, but if I didn’t believe my experience in evaluating football things was at least a little bit valuable, I wouldn’t be writing these. Hopefully that experience gives you a clearer picture of what to expect, while also expecting that these pictures could be erased at any moment.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers

The Seahawks rip through their entire AFC schedule with four of their first seven games of 2019. After hosting the Bengals in Week 1 (preview here) and before facing the BTS-level hot status Browns in Week 6 (preview here), Seattle travels to Pittsburgh to face a Steelers team that appears to be much different than they’ve been over the last five years ... but in how many ways can we actually count the changes?

Antonio Brown is in Oakland, taking with him 168 targets, 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. Another chapter in a Hall of Fame career but at 31, Brown’s downward trend could theoretically be a moment away — especially with a Raiders uniform on. While Brown could argue that he’s the best receiver of the last six seasons, Mike Tomlin and his staff have had a knack for developing good players in place of star players and putting them in a position to be productive. JuJu Smith-Schuster had already overtaken Brown as the number one option (111 catches, 1,426 yards at age 22) regardless of what Brown thinks, and there are plenty of interesting options in waiting:

  • James Washington was a second round pick in 2018 and he’ll have every opportunity to start after sitting behind two All-Pro level receivers as a rookie. He had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his last three years at Oklahoma State and the targets will be there from Ben Roethlisberger should he improve his status over training camp and preseason.
  • Eli Rogers had nine yards per target and 594 yards in 2016, one year after being an undrafted free agent. But injuries have cost him most of his career and he missed all but three games last season.
  • Donte Moncrief signed a sizable one-year deal with the Jaguars and had 668 yards with Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler. He should presumably be in a better situation with the Steelers.
  • Diontae Johnson is a third round rookie out of Toledo. He’s considered “undersized” but seen as a versatile playmaker and with time could be another option for Roethlisberger. This is the pick they got in the Antonio Brown trade from Oakland.
  • Ryan Switzer had 36 catches but for only 253 yards, but he’s also an interesting one to watch given his prowess on special teams.

Ben Roethlisberger connecting with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Donte Moncrief in succession. OTAs are officially off and running. pic.twitter.com/Z9sFShdKwX

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 21, 2019

Does Pittsburgh have a flat out one-to-one replacement for Antonio Brown? Well, yes. His name is JuJu. But do they have someone who can step in and be as productive as JuJu — as if that’s something that a team needs to be a Super Bowl contender, which it doesn’t? Maybe not but between Washington, Moncrief, and Rogers, I don’t expect the offense to struggle as they’ve finished top-10 in points and yards in each of the last five years.

What else has changed on offense besides Brown? Not much.

Le’Veon Bell is gone but Bell was gone before 2018. James Conner, the starting running back who had similar production to Bell (973 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 497 receiving yards in 13 games), is back. Jaylen Samuels (fifth rounder in 2018) comes back after a slightly productive rookie season (4.6 YPC on 56 attempts, three receiving touchdowns) and fourth round rookie Benny Snell, Jr joins them.

Rushing attempts since Week 11
1. Ravens - 316
2. Seahawks - 246
3. Bears - 215
...
30. Packers - 132
30. Dolphins - 132 (6 games)
32. Steelers - 126

— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmarNFL) January 2, 2019

The offensive line still features Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro. Right tackle Matt Feiler also returns after starting 10 games in 2018, making it five of five in continuity right now. Vance McDonald had 64 catches in four years with the San Francisco 49ers and has 64 catches in the last two with the Steelers, including 610 yards last season. They added fifth rounder Zach Gentry this year to offset the loss of Jesse James.

So what reasons do I have to believe that Pittsburgh will go from a team that was first in pass attempts, second in passing yards, fourth in total yards, and sixth in scoring to one that is even average on offense? I don’t have any. The loss of Brown might force offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner — who has been with the Steelers since 2007 and is not bringing any innovative ideas (to Tomlin, at least) — to push the ball around a bit more but that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. In the world of “anti-rush” analytics, Pittsburgh became just about the least-balanced team in the league and while they put up points, they lost four of their last six games and missed the playoffs. Conner may have been a productive back and made a great case for the “all backs are replaceable” argument, but whether it was causation or correlation, the Steelers were a much better team with Bell — and they were also a much more balanced team.

Of course, Pittsburgh was always at their best when it was the defense, not the offense, that led the charge.

In 2004, the Steelers had the NFL’s best defense and went 15-1. The next year with much of the same team, they won the Super Bowl, as disputed as that might feel. Three years later, they won the Super Bowl again with the number one defense. Two years after that, they lost the Super Bowl with the number one scoring defense and number two in yards allowed. Since 2013, the Steelers defense has been broken blinds and cracked windows and Tomlin has failed to get distinctly close to another Super Bowl trip.

Should the defense not be fixed in 2019 and Pittsburgh falls below .500, it would be interesting to see if the Steelers decide to make their third head coaching change since 1968.

Pittsburgh’s defensive Pro Bowl players a year ago were defensive end Cam Heyward, who turned 30 last month, and linebacker T.J. Watt, who has 20 sacks in his first two seasons. Their other recent first round picks besides Watt include rookie linebacker Devin Bush, who they traded up from 20 to 10 to get, and second year safety Terrell Edmunds, who had 78 tackles and an interception in 2018. It’s just about impossible to know at this point what Bush and Edmunds will be next season or in the long-term future but there are more players on the defense worth noting.

Linebacker Mark Barron joins the defense after spending the last three years with the LA Rams, with each season seemingly being less successful than the one before it. Nose tackle Javon Hargrave had 6.5 sacks from the inside of the line and could be viewed as their “Jarran Reed.” Defensive end Stephon Tuitt has lacked sacks in his career but had 20 QB hits last season according to Pro-Football-Reference. Bud Dupree is yet another former first round linebacker (2015 in this case) and while he only barely did enough to earn his fifth-year option (over $9 million this season) he will be playing for a big contract in 2020.

Y’all wanna know how unreal Javon Hargrave was?

He won 20.4% of his pass rushing snaps. That’s near an elite level folks. It’s too bad he only had about 200 pass rushing snaps to do it in. The Steelers have an absolute monster on their hands and I hope they unleash him.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) June 1, 2019

It’s the secondary where the Steelers have the biggest questions as they finished 17th against the pass by DVOA.

Joe Haden goes into his 10th NFL season and third with Pittsburgh. He’s not an elite cornerback but he doesn’t seem to be a liability either. They signed Steve Nelson to a three-year, $25 million deal, making it the highest APY they’ve ever given to an outside free agent. Nelson had four interceptions with the Kansas City Chiefs a year ago and again, he’s not a liability, but certainly Pitt seems to have a couple of decent corners rather than a couple — or even one — who would be especially frightening to opposing receivers and quarterbacks. Rookie third rounder Justin Layne was viewed as a first rounder by some but he’s just 21 and could take time to develop. Mike Hilton is expected to start at nickel.

Edmunds will start at strong safety while Sean Davis, a second round pick in 2016, gets his fourth season as a starter overall and second at the free position. He’s done a lot of tackling (170 in the last two years) but again, Davis could be considered more “fine” than being listed among game-changing defensive playmakers.

Thus far that label only falls on Watt, Heyward, and maybe now Hargrave. Meanwhile, Edmunds and Bush provide plenty of first round hope for Steelers fans, and Tuitt, Dupree, Haden, Barron, and Nelson bring some veteran presence that could at least keep Pittsburgh from being flat out bad on defense as they were in 2014, when they were 30th in DVOA. That’s what led to the promotion of Keith Butler from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2015 and they’ve been relatively decent since then but if a top-five season is on the horizon, it’s not exactly evident yet as to why it would be.

For that to happen, Bush might need to be a Pro Bowl-level backer right from the start, which is not impossible or even improbable in many recent cases of phenom prospects; Edmunds may need to make that leap to being an impact safety game-in and game-out; T.J. may need to play even more like J.J., as good as “T” is in his own right; the cornerback group might need to find at least one guy that puts fear into opposing quarterbacks; and do that without seeing someone like Heyward or Hargrave falling off or getting injured.

In general, I think we’re likely getting a Steelers team not so much different than previous Steelers teams, which is fitting for a sports franchise that has arguably changed the least of any major American sports franchise of the last 50 years. They were good, but not great, in 2018, finishing ninth in overall DVOA, sixth on offense, 13th on defense, and 27th on special teams. Given the variance of special teams, maybe we expect a little bit of improvement there. Maybe we even expect the defense to get a little bit better with the development of players like Edmunds, Hargrave, and Bush. And though I expect Pittsburgh to be fine on offense without Brown, it’s not as though I expect them to improve a ton, if at all, from being a very good offense already.

That keeps me right around a 10-6 projection for the Steelers with a two-game swing in either direction, from 8-8 to 12-4. That’s a pretty wide range but I think all teams have a pretty wide range of possible outcomes. When it comes to hosting the Seahawks in Week 2, I would think that Pittsburgh has a distinct advantage at home and with a 1 PM ET start time. We’ve seen Seattle struggle in September road games already and this one is on the east coast against what I expect to be a good team. I’d think that the Steelers would win a lot of battles in the trenches when they’re on offense and that should give Roethlisberger plenty of time to find options to throw to whether it is Smith-Schuster against a cornerback who could very well struggle to cover him (Shaquill Griffin or Tre Flowers or whoever is playing nickel) or one of the players who won’t be getting nearly attention as him or the guy they’re looking to fill in for.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was 2nd last season with 63 receptions from the slot pic.twitter.com/P9LhpdKiMC

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 11, 2019

Brown may be a high-profile player but high-profile franchises tend to continue business as usual regardless and business-as-usual for Pittsburgh has always been about a lot more than a single receiver.

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