Thoughts About The Al Woods Suspension And The Seahawk Defensive Heading Towards The Playoffs


Will the Loss of Big Al cause Seahawk fans to ask, “where’s the beef?!”

So, here we have it. With two games left in the regular season, veteran defensive tackle Al Woods has been suspended for four games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. When I saw this filter into my news feed Friday afternoon, I felt my heart sink into My Twelfth Man bowels. There is no way to make this sound pretty. This blows.

I am actually more upset about this than learning about Josh Gordon’s suspension last Monday. For the most part, Seattle has been a highly productive offensive team this season, and they were plenty productive before they took a waver claim on Gordon last month. While he made a few splashy grabs, his impact on the offense never really seemed to live up to the hype. Even with the splashy 58 yard bomb he hauled in against Carolina, he pretty much disappeared for the rest of the game (outside of throwing that interception on a needless trick play, but we won’t go into that).

Woods, on the other hand, had been a vital inside presence against the run on a defense that has struggled more times than not this season.  One area that the defense had actually be fairly decent at was stopping the run, and now they will be without one of their better run defenders going against division rivals the Arizona Cardinals, and the San Fransisco 49ers, two teams that want to run the ball. This is not good.

This defensive line has been a patch work unit all season long, and with no sign of prized defensive end Jadeveon Clowney being ready to play anytime soon, losing Al Woods is a blow. Let’s not sugar coat it.

Seattle will call up all 6-3 360 pounds of Brian Mone from the practice squad to help out, but it is probably a tall order for him to replace the veteran savvy that Woods offered, and if Seattle loses Jarran Reed or Poona Ford to injury, they are probably in big trouble heading into the playoffs. They have Quinton Jefferson, LJ Collier, and Brandon Jackson who can all play inside, but these are smaller players who are more or less hybrid end/tackles. Woods was a 6-4 330 pound grown man built to take away the inside run.

I don’t want to be all gloom and doom about this, but Seattle was already razor thin with their depth on the defensive side of the ball before this suspension. Heading into this pivotal game against the Cardinals, they will be without Clowney, and starting free safety Quandre Diggs. They will possibly also be without starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and starting corner Shaquill Griffin. That’s over one third of your starting defense, and now they lose a key reserve.

Seattle should still beat the Cardinals. They are the better team, and they are playing at home. However, they will need Russell Wilson and the offense to play at a high level yet again. Any struggles on that side of the ball, and Arizona has just enough talent that they could come into Seattle and steal one. This Sunday, Russell Wilson needs to remind everyone why he is still very much an MVP candidate. If he does that, Seattle wins this game.

I think this is why it has been so stressful on fans rooting for this team this year, even though they sit on a 11-3 record. For Seattle to win most of it’s games this year, they have mostly been reliant on the brilliant play of their quarterback. If he falters, the team doesn’t appear to have the depth to overcome.

This loss of Al Woods shouldn’t feel like a big deal. On a deep roster such as that 49er one, it likely wouldn’t, but on this Seattle roster, it kinda is. Let’s be honest, Seahawk fans, we don’t have what they do on the defense.

This is a roster that actually has one of the weirdest defenses in the league, and one of the weirdest that I can ever remember in Seattle. They are up towards the top in creating turnovers, but they sit towards the very bottom in generating sacks and quarterback pressures. They have been playing without their best pass rusher lately, and now they have lost one of their better run defenders.

If Seattle beats the Cardinals (which they should), and manages to beat the 49ers on December 29th, and then becomes the top seeded NFC team heading into the playoffs, it will be one of the most remarkable story lines in sports this year. They will have done it with a defense that has somehow created boat loads of turnovers without much pass rush. Call me old fashioned, but that just feels weird.

I hope they do it, but in all honesty, I don’t know if they will. As much as I look through the lens of Seahawk blue and green glasses, I see an overachieving roster that has made it to 11 wins, and I think we should be proud of them for that. While I think they will probably get to 12 wins, and maybe more, I still don’t know if this is an honest Super Bowl contender. The loss of Woods, the ominous vibe about Clowney’s core injury, the banged up nature of Ziggy Ansah, the hamstrings of Kendricks and Griffin, and the high angle sprain of Diggs, this feels like a defense that is literally limping to the finish line.

Perhaps the biggest question isn’t how many of these starting veterans they will get back by the playoffs, but rather how many of the younger plays will step up in their place in the playoffs.

Lots of question marks there heading into these last couple games. It would be a good thing for a number of the younger players to start really stepping up. We shall see soon enough.

Go Hawks.


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