Last week, the Los Angeles Rams kicked off the 2016 in ignominious fashion against the San Francisco 49ers, losing 0-28 on the road.
Now, the Rams return home to kick off the second era of Rams (and NFL) football in Los Angeles by bringing in NFC West rivals Seattle Seahawks for a star-studded affair that could determine the shape of the Rams’ 2016 season.
A win and the Rams right the ship, move to 1-1 and re-calibrate their 2016 fortunes (and likely announce an extension for Head Coach Jeff Fisher soon after...). A loss, and the 0-2 record (and perhaps the method in which they attained it) will bring a deafening roar from the LA media and newfound Rams fans.
Kind of a big game.
To get a sense of the 2016 Seattle Seahawks, I linked up with Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls, the SB Nation community for fans of the Seahawks.
Ugly Week 1 win. Is that the kind of game you are just happy to get a W from or is it indicative of something wrong with the team? Was there anything from the preseason that indicated this was the kind of entry into the 2016 season that was coming?
Let’s call 2012 a wash because it was Russell Wilson's rookie year...
2013: Seahawks win 12-7 over the Panthers in Week 1. "What's wrong with Russell Wilson and the offense?!?!"
Seahawks drop behind 20-3 to Texans in Week 4, need a Richard Sherman miracle pick-six to force OT and win. "This team is not what we thought they were!!!"
Yada yada yada, win the Super Bowl.
2014: Seahawks lose by 9 points to the Chargers in Week 2 (biggest loss in any game from mid-2011 to present) and we know now that the defensive miracle is over because they couldn't defend Antonio Gates and Richard Sherman's career is over.
Seahawks drop back-to-back games to Cowboys and Rams to fall to 3-3, it was a nice run while it lasted.
Seahawks don't score TD against Panthers until :47 seconds left to win 13-9, the offense is pathetic.
Yada yada yada, one play away from winning the Super Bowl
2015: Seahawks lose in Week 1 to the Rams drop to 2-4 and 4-5, eliminating their playoff chances, I'm sure.
Russell Wilson's passer rating through nine games is 91.7 through nine games (doesn't get any worse than that, right? 91.7 is the worst you can mathematically do, I believe) and we know now that team's have "figured him out." Good run, Russell. Don't let the fish hit you on the way out.
Yada yada yada, his passer rating is over 130 in the final seven games and the Seahawks nearly complete a 31-point halftime deficit to the Panthers in the playoffs.
Basically all to say this: Seattle's goal in the first eight weeks of the season is to tinker, toy, test, and try, and hopefully do just enough to come away with wins -- 2013 was their best team yet but not by much. It was the difference of a few plays that separated them in the W/L columns from the other versions of the team. So no, right now I don't care how they win as long as they win. Defense looked spectacular except for Earl Thomas and I think Earl Thomas will be just fine. Offense looked shitty but they went 1-5 last season against Donald, Atkins, and Short, so I'm not surprised they struggled against Suh. They'll probably still struggle against Donald. I'm hoping the defense forces some turnovers on Case Keenum and that may be what puts the most points on the board for the Seahawks.
You guys put together a sizable rookie class. Are there any rookies, albeit with the current injuries to OL Germain Ifedi and RB C.J. Prosise, who are standing out?
Yeah, I'm not sure what the current count is but recently it was at 15 rookies on the roster. Pretty wild for a team that was supposedly stacked but if they churn the back end of the roster, they can hold onto the front end.
Second-round defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Alabama, also an alum of the Mississippi junior college featured in Last Chance U) balled out pretty hard in Week 1 with two batted passes at the line of scrimmage and just being a constant disruption for Laremy Tunsil and the Miami defensive line, though they were without All-Pro center Mike Pouncey.
Other than that, I can't say that anyone was a standout rookie in Week 1. As you said, Ifedi is injured but he should be the Seahawks best offensive lineman when he returns in a few weeks. C.J. Prosise has been banged up his whole (long) career it seems like but he's practicing and should play. His one catch and run (13 yards) looked like a young Fred Jackson (Fred Jackson was never young, this scenario is a lie) and I think he's going to be really, really good if he stays healthy. Defensive lineman Quentin Jefferson only had like seven snaps but he's in the mold of a Michael Bennett in terms of playing inside and outside and he did really well in preseason, I like him a lot. And keep an eye on DeAndre Elliott over the long-term. Seattle kept him (UDFA out of Colorado State) over some more well-known young cornerbacks who they drafted recently (Tye Smith, the recently released Tharold Simon) and he'll have an impact on special teams.
What's the core difference between the 2016 Seahawks and last year's iteration? What's going to get you guys past the divisional round this year?
That's difficult to say because last season's playoff team was so much different than the team we see now due to injuries and turnover. They didn't have Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, or Thomas Rawls on offense in the divisional round of the playoffs. Now they do. They're going to operate as a different offense because of that. And at the beginning of the year, Kam Chancellor was holding out and Cary Williams was ruining everything at the corner spot oppo Sherman; that spot (DeShawn Shead) was one of their greatest strengths on defense in Week 1. Shead killed it. They now have Reed instead of Brandon Mebane and while Mebane was still good, it's like a new lease on life with Reed. Defensive end Frank Clark in his second season and really coming into his own. Defensive end Cassius Marsh had a heck of a game and might be a Pro Bowl candidate as the "special teams specialist" or whatever it's called, blocking a field goal and make some great tackles.
They're a better team right now than the team headed into the playoffs or at the beginning of last season, but will they still be that by the end of this regular season? I don't know. Do I expect them to change what's worked for the last four years in terms of play calling on offense and defense? Not really, other than tweaking things based on the personnel they have, which is what happened when Graham went out last year. With Graham, maybe things will be a lot different, but we haven't seen much from him yet (17 snaps in Week 1.) Now they've got a two-headed attack at RB with Rawls and Christine Michael and that could change things a lot from what they were doing with Marshawn Lynch. One interesting thing to note: In Russell Wilson's last two games: Divisional loss to the Panthers, Week 1 win over the Dolphins -- two COMPLETELY different games in execution and results and game management -- he set new highs in pass attempts. He had 48 against Carolina and 43 against Miami. It'll be interesting to see how many attempts he gets this year with the retirement of Lynch and just generally maturing as a passer.
So as a non-Seahawks fan, the two names that jump out to me as the best Seahawks of all time would be WR Steve Largent and OT Walter Jones, but correct me if there's someone in that top tier with them. How far away is Russell Wilson from that group? In just four years, he's led you guys to a Super Bowl, and...well, let's be real, he led you guys to a Super Bowl. Everything else is, well, not winning the Super Bowl. Everything else has, though, been pretty damn good. Is he ahead of CB Richard Sherman and S Earl Thomas and RB Marshawn Lynch and anyone else from this current era?
That's a loaded fucking question, Joe!
He's the greatest QB in franchise history and that has to speak for something. At his current trajectory, Wilson should definitely be the greatest player in franchise history after 10 or so seasons, I think. Even if Walter Jones is the greatest left tackle of all-time or Steve Largent the greatest wide receiver before Jerry Rice, and even if Wilson will never be the greatest QB ever, he's still a QB. It's the toughest job in sports and he does it better than anyone in the world besides a few guys maybe.
Cortez Kennedy was a first ballot Hall of Famer, Kenny Easley is a senior finalist for the Hall, Matt Hasselbeck never got the credit he was due, Kam Chancellor is really important to this defense and it's one of the greatest defensive runs in NFL history, Sherman is an incredible cornerback, Thomas is a transcendent safety, Lynch is perhaps the most popular player in team history and should be in the Hall of Fame despite what anyone says about his total rushing yards -- he's the second-best RB in the NFL from 2010 to 2015 behind Adrian Peterson except he was almost always healthy and never suspended for a full year, so he even had more yards than him. But Wilson is special and definitely top five in team history right now with an easy path to number one.
Speaking of...this is clearly the golden era for your franchise. A Super Bowl victory and a second appearance bookended by divisional round games. Is keeping this era going just a matter of keeping Wilson and sufficient defensive pieces around for as long as they can play? Is it more a function of Head Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider together? And you guys were able to transition from a successful Holmgren-Hasselbeck-Alexander era to an even more successful Carroll-Wilson-Lynch one. At what point do you have to start beginning the transition to whatever comes next?
Well, think of an important player on the Seahawks right now and the good news is that he's signed through 2017, at least. Most are signed through 2018 and beyond. The biggest names set to hit free agency next year are Christine Michael, right tackle Garry Gilliam, tight end Luke Willson, and kicker Steven Hauschka. (I believe Shead is a RFA.) The core is intact, they lock up all of their guys by constantly churning half of the roster. They just extended Doug Baldwin for four more years. Michael Bennett is next but at almost-31, they might just guarantee all of his salary for 2017 and maybe add a couple years they can get away from. They just gave extensions to John Schneider and Pete Carroll too. So right now, there isn't any succession plan because there doesn't need to be. Even if everything goes horribly wrong, that's not something you can
Carroll may be in his sixties but he never acts like it. I think he could stick around the NFL longer than people realize, even if it's not in Seattle.
Everything is good now in terms of the present and the immediate future that matters, which is 2016-2018. After that, who fucking knows. The whole country will be different by year three of Trump.
Thanks to that boi Kenny A for the time.