My Realistic Wish List For the 2020 Seattle Seahawks

Get bigger and badder on the defensive line and add more speed off of the edges. Go Hawks.

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on this blog about things that what I thought the Seahawks would likely do this off-season. It was a bit extensive, and you review it here, but essentially I stated that I felt there would be a number of changes to the defense and they would try to surround Russell Wilson with more weapons on the offense.  None of this was far reaching stuff. Most GMs for most teams that fall short of the Super Bowl probably want to improve their team somewhat similarly. The distinction with Seattle, however, is that for the first time since 2011, they will have significant salary cap space to be more aggressive in free agency, and they have ten draft picks to play with.

For this piece, I want to spell out my own wish list for these Seahawks. It’s not a crazy wish list. I’m not going to ask for Jody Allen to fire Pete Carroll and pull the next brilliant offensive minded head coach with a chiselled chin and piercing blue eyes out of thin air to lead the team. I’m also not asking them to sign Jadeveon Clowney and then add Kansas City superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones, Rams’ sack master Dante Fowler,  Tennessee right tackle Jack Conklin all in free agency, and then trade for Odell Beckham Junior.

I believe I have put forth a fairly realistic wish list of the things I would like this team to do that will help put them over the top in 2020 and set them up for future years in the Russell Wilson era. So, here it is.

Lean Into Russell Wilson More

It’s been a frustrating week of Seahawk football following their loss to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Apparently, there has been a civil war brewing on Seahawk Twitter about firing Pete Carroll that has spilled into the airwaves of the Seattle sports radio station that I listen to daily.

I will be honest. I don’t Twitter. I probably should to promote this blog, but the truth is that I’ve been both lazy and apprehensive of joining (I’m a Gen X slacker who is also a Libra, which means I take a double long time to make a decision and act). Perhaps this year I will, but either way, here is my definitive position on the whole Fire Pete Carroll thingy.

I believe that it is inaccurate to say that Pete Carroll is holding Russell Wilson back. I am no football expert, but from my observation, I would say that the offensive coordinator change from Darrell Bevell to Brian Schottenheimer has helped Russell Wilson’s game considerably. I think Schottenheimer has cleaned up A LOT of Wilson’s game in terms of mechanics, footwork, and pre-snap reads. I think the level of play from Wilson over the last two years to his previous six years has been largely a night and day difference in the positive, and I don’t think there can be much dispute in that.

Let us all remember that it wasn’t that long ago that there was a Trade Russell Wilson civil war brewing on Seahawks Twitter, as well. After the team went 9-7 and Seattle missed the playoffs, many fans felt Wilson had regressed considerably enough that the team was better off to deal him while they still could. I thought that was ridiculous then, and I think the Fire Pete Carroll thing is equally ridiculous now.

Pete Carroll has built and maintained a winning culture in Seattle. This team just won eleven games and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, and they came close to beating the Packers in Green Bay.  In my opinion, they did this with a significant talent deficiency, and it wasn’t just about Wilson’s magic. Carroll coached up marginal talent.

Therefor, I think it would be a horrendous idea to fire Pete Carroll now. They just finished the second year of a major rebuild and they are heading into a critical third year of that project.

It would be like divorcing your spouse because they aren’t as on the surface interesting as other spouses in other marriages you see around you, even though generally you’ve gotten along well, and are doing well raising the kids and paying off the house. Two years later, you could easily be sitting alone in your living room in your soiled underwear watching something adult on your screen with a half empty bottle of scotch in front of you, while your spouse and their new partner are taking your kids to Disney Land and are buying a Tesla together. Call me conservative, but I just think it is best to hang onto what you have and trying to make it work even better.

What Pete Carroll can do better is to lean into the skills of Russell Wilson even more, from time to time. They can start out games more aggressively on occasion, and test the defense with the passing on first downs more. I would also like to see even more motions and misdirection plays to utilize Russell abilities to throw on the run.  They can also vary the tempo of the offense in the first half of games to keep the opposing defenses on edge.

They don’t need wholesale changes on the offense, they just need to continue adding more wrinkles and layers for their star quarterback. This is a perfectly reasonable request heading into year three of Brian Schottenheimer’s play-calling, and it’s not about passing more than running. It’s just about mixing things up a bit more.

Be Aggressive In Fixing The Defensive Line

Seattle failed to improve their defense in 2019 from 2018. In fact, many ways, it got much worse. They were a horrible tackling team, and they were a bad pass rushing team. I think they were merely so so in coverage.

Part of this is probably on coaches, but I think a much larger portion is on talent. It might have been better for Seattle in the long term that they traded Frank Clark to Kansas City for two high draft picks, but it clearly made 2019 a harder season defensively. I think it all mostly starts and stops in the trenches.

Seattle must vastly improve it’s pass rushing situation, and the situation in general on the defensive line for it to truly get back into championship contention. A more charged pass rush would allow the team to play more aggressively on offense. A more charged pass rush would probably also help Seattle be more aggressive in coverage. But none of this matters if they can not stop the run. All of this can be fixed by fixing the defensive line.

When I look at this 2019 defensive line of the Seattle Seahawks, outside of Jadeveon Clowney, I don’t see anything special. I see a few players that, at best, are kind of jack of all trades – master of none types. I also see some others that are kind of in between types, almost playing without a true position.

The years when Seattle had a strong defensive line, they had multiple players that were special in their own ways. Red Bryant was a massive left end at 6-4 and 320 pounds who able to take away the left side of the field on early run downs, and that was a huge advantage for Seattle. Michael Bennett had special versatility to play as a pass rushing defensive tackle and end at a high level. Cliff Avril had special ability to convert speed to power as a pass rushing end. Brandon Mebane had special ability to play nose tackle with strength and leverage. Frank Clark add special speed and strength and athleticism off the edge. Tony McDaniel had special length and toughness inside. The list can go on.

Jarran Reed is a perfect example of a player that is a jack of all trades master of none type. Pro Football Focus has listed him as the 49th best player heading into free agency. They noted that he is good at a lot of things but not special at anything, and they land on him being a quality player in a defensive line rotation. In four years of watching Reed, I think that this is a really fair take. I like him a lot as a player, but he just doesn’t feel like a guy you want to over spend on. He doesn’t offer special size, or twitch inside. He is a good leader, and a tough guy, and a guy that you probably want back at the right cost, but he is probably not a building block.

I want Seattle to acquire building block players on the defensive line in 2020. In my opinion, it all starts with Jadeveon Clowney, and his rare ability to disrupt. If I were to look at what Seattle traditionally has had on it’s defensive line during the height of it’s defensive prowess under Carroll, I would ask general manager John Schneider go add special size and special speed to Clowney’s disruption, if he is kept.

We will get into free agency later when it is apparent who will be available, but if I were to give an example of what I would like to see on this team in 2020, it would be Jadeveon Clowney playing one end spot and a speed rusher like Dante Fowler playing the other end, and then a massive body wrecking the interior like defensive tackle DJ Reader from Houston. If they can acquire that and convince Jarran Reed to come back on a reasonable deal, I am liking Seattle’s defensive line a whole heck of a lot better, and I am guessing Bobby Wagner is going to like it, as well.

Earl Thomas once was asked about the importance of the play of Brandon Mebane a few years back. I remember him saying something to the effect that the players on the back end appreciated him and that the success of their defense all started with his play between the guard and center, that the whole defense started there. I just really want to see Seattle get back to that.

Get Better Defensive Coaching.

I would like to see some improvement to the coaching staff on the defensive side. I am not necessarily calling for the firing of coordinator Ken Norton Jr, but I am asking for more help, and if their is a better coordinator available, I think Seattle should go get him.

In my previous piece about Seattle’s 2020 off-season, I suggested that they might be interested in bringing back former defensive coordinator Kris Richard. Personally, I think it would probably be a wise idea, but I think that there are a lot of moving parts that would need to happen. Firstly, I think there would have to be strong interest on both sides. Would Richard want to come back to the place that left him go two years ago? Would Carroll be able to suck up whatever pride he had and admit that maybe letting Richard go was a mistake?

Also, there are probably going to be some ruffled Seahawk feathers to consider. Would Ken Norton Jr and Kris Richard be able to coexist on a coaching staff together? Would Richard only come back if he was the coordinator again? Would Norton be willing to take a demotion and just coach the linebackers again? If Norton is fired, how would that sit with star veteran linebackers Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright who love the guy?

These are the things Carroll would have to weigh, but that facts are the facts. The 2019 Seattle Seahawks were a horrible tackling team, and considering that the defensive coordinator is a former pro bowl linebacker and a former linebacker coach, this feels inexcusable to me, to be honest. There is no reason for this team to have been so terrible at tackling, and it was a problem at all three levels of the defense.

Now perhaps part of the issue was that the defensive line was so underwhelming that players behind them over shot plays in an effort to over compensate. Perhaps getting back to bigger bodies at defensive tackle solves a lot of this issue. Maybe it was simple alignment issues, but either way, I just wonder if Ken Norton Junior is a better position coach than a coordinator, and he just had too much on his plate to hone in on the fundamentals that have usually always been a hallmark of a Pete Carroll defense.

I’m a patient Twelve, but I think I have seen enough here. So I am guessing that probably most Twelves have, as well. Any move from Norton might be just the thing to rejuvenate this tired fan base. There is a standard on the defensive side of the ball that has been set in Seattle under Pete Carroll that needs to be kept and fans will not tolerate seeing the defense have the same issues in 2020. These are the things Pete Carroll must also weigh.

One other thought I had was perhaps Carroll bringing in a well regarded former player onto the staff. Would Kam Chancellor like to come on board to coach up the DBs? Would Cliff Avril like to assist with the defensive line? Both of these guys weren’t just great players because of their physical skill sets. They were great players because they were great students of the game.

There’s probably many other considerations in coaching out there that haven’t crossed my mind yet, but it just feels to me that this is another aspect of the team that desperately needs to be improved on. I’m ready for change here, anyway.

Give Russell Wilson More Weapons

The Fire Pete Twitter crowd wants to see Russell take over the offense more? I got news for them, it won’t happen until Russell has more weapons. Schottenhiemer was happy to dial things up more with Russell when they had DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Will Dissly on the field with Chris Carson against the Steelers. That was then, but after Dissly went down a few weeks later in Cleveland, you could sense the reigns about to be pulled back.

Here is the reality that I think the Fire Pete Twitter crowd needs to here and read: Russell Wilson is a really good quarterback but probably needs more talent around him to really get over the hump. The reason why Pete probably likes to dial back is because Russell’s style needs to be supported by a run game to be effective. He is not Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady. He can’t just drop back and air it out all over the place because he is SIX INCHES SHORTER THAN THE AVERAGE LINEMAN IN FRONT OF HIM.

There, glad I got that out.

And that is not to say that he isn’t elite in his own way. (of course he is). I’m just saying he needs to be surrounded by more talent, just like most other quarterbacks in the league. I honestly think that if a relatively healthy Doug Baldwin had been on this roster in 2019, that may have been the difference between Seattle playing on the road in the first round and getting a first round bye and then hosting a playoff game in the following week.

Give Russell the same trio of receivers that Jared Goff has in LA, and we probably aren’t hearing squat all from the Fire Pete crowd these days. That team that won the Super Bowl in 2013-14 had Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin on that roster. Yeah they lost Rice and Harvin to injuries throughout most of the season, but the point it that they went into 2013 loaded.

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are nice pieces. Will Dissly looks like a nice player if he can ever stay healthy. Go get Russell another receiver that can push those other two guys and can consistently test the defenses in eleven personnel. This coming draft is loaded at receiver. I know they got needs elsewhere, but go get one of those guys, and while you’re at it, go grab a tight end that can challenge Dissly.

Be cutthroat about giving Russell more weapons. 2019 was what it was because this team did not have enough. It’s that simple.

Firing Pete Carroll isn’t about anything about building around Russell. Giving Russell more legit targets for defenses to deal with is. Go Hawks.

Get Better Pass Blocking On The Offensive Line

This is the annual wish for these Seahawks under Pete Carroll. For me, it isn’t even that the line was that terrible, at times in most games they actually looked fairly decent, and yes, I agree with the notion that Russell Wilson often invites sacks by the way he hangs onto the ball chasing the big play, but I also have to acknowledge that they can improve on personnel in front of him.

Mainly, I don’t think Germaine Ifedi is a great right tackle for Russell Wilson. That isn’t to say that he is the terrible player that a lot of Seattle fans make him out to be. I actually think he has improved as a player considerably, and is now a decent player. I just think that for a short quarterback who needs to move around to see things and extend plays, Ifedi feels more like a guard playing tackle. I think he false starts often because he needs to get an early jump on a quicker defender because he is not greatly athletic. I also think he sits in his stance in ways that tell defenders that the play is either going to be a run or pass due to his lack of athleticism. Because of all this, I am happy to move on.

I would actually rather see them convince George Fant to stay and take over at right tackle, or draft a player that was athletic enough to play left tackle in college that can transition to right tackle in Seattle. Many other teams have done this in the league with success. I would like to see Seattle use that same approach, and with a lot of junior tackles declaring for this coming draft, this feels like a year where Seattle could get a good one early, even if they do their standard trade back (which they likely will).

I would also like to see them to give Phil Haynes a shot at winning the left guard spot. In his brief appearance in the Packers game, he looked pretty good in pass protection, and was blocking for Wilson when Wilson started to do his second half magic. That small sample size showed me that Haynes might have something that is starting caliber. They can bring back Mike Iupati, but let the competition be an open one in camp.

Lastly here, I would like to see the club work out a deal for Justin Britt to stick around on a restructured deal in 2020 that will offer cap relief to address other weaknesses on the team. If this doesn’t happen, he is probably going to get cut, and that is just another hole on the offensive line that they will need to sort through. I’m not sure that they want to go into 2020 with a rookie center and potentially a rookie right tackle starting.

Fix The Strength and Conditioning Situation

I am saving this one for last, and I think it might be the most important. This team lost far too much talent on the field due to torn pectoral muscles, core injuries, neck stingers, sprained ankles, hamstrings, achilles injuries, knee injuries, hip injuries, and broken limbs. It was freakish.

The Seattle Seahawks have to get better at their strength and conditioning. This one year under Ivan Lewis was disastrously bad. I suspect there were players playing through stuff that wasn’t even being listed. It just seemed obvious.

If there is one coaching change that I would have Pete Carroll make to this staff, it would actually be at this spot here, and as stated above, I definitely want to see some changes to the defensive staff. Seattle simply can not go into the 2020 season with these same results or worse and expect to win the division.

They can’t. So please fix.

Closing Thoughts

This isn’t a big wish list. This is not an unreasonable wish list. There are other things that I could add. I could ask for more competition at cornerback (I probably should ask for more competition at cornerback). I could ask for maybe more speed at linebacker, but I just see other more pressing needs, and paths to regaining control of the NFC West.

The most important thing for me is for the team to entirely fix the defensive line. Getting Clowney back would be a great start but they need a lot more. The good news is that I think Pete Carroll and John Schneider know this and they will be better equipped in cap space than in years past to handle this task. They will also have a bunch of draft picks top play with.

Fix the defense by fixing the defensive line and possibly some changes to coaches and scheme, and be bold about it.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about Russ on the other side and what his needs and wants might be. Otherwise, the Fire Pete crowd will surely let you hear about it.

Go Hawks.






4 thoughts on “My Realistic Wish List For the 2020 Seattle Seahawks

  1. I enjoyed your previous article, “Thoughts about the Seattle Seahawks Big Off-Season in 2020” and this one. I am a NFL Football neophyte, as I never played nor grew up with football. Thus, the perspectives on the various players & coaches (defensive, offensive, strength/conditioning) are insightful.

    I do want to touch on the importance of a Head Coach, and thus, Pete Carroll. I absolutely give Pete Carroll props for his leadership ability to build a winning culture that takes in many who have chips on their shoulder, and molds every individual into a brotherhood who will his all for one another. There are very few head coaches who have this leadership, and this quality is not being trumpeted sufficiently.

    If the franchise objective is to seriously contend for the Super Bowl every now and then, depending on the fluctuations in salary cap and the retention/turn-over/blend of veterans and rookies in any one year, then, the Seahawks is in a good place.

    Let’s see. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is the first NFL quarterback to notch a winning record in his first eight seasons. He holds other records. His current contract is till 2023 season.

    What should the franchise objective be with Russell Wilson at the helm? Perhaps it may be illuminating to see what other franchises have achieved with such a QB talent. The Patriots come to mind given the 6 wins (highest) since 2001 with QB Tom Brady. Head coach Bill Belichick has undoubtedly established himself as a savvy coach who has built and sustained a winning team. Patriots did not necessarily have the deepest and widest talent pool for the six Super Bowl wins. What was the difference – Bill and his coaching staff. Winning games ‘start’ with coaches being able to correctly analyze and anticipate the opposing team’s tactics, to devise creative game plays with the available talent, to offset team weaknesses, etc.

    Back to my question on the franchise objective. If the Seahawks franchise objective is more ambitious, namely, to seriously contend for the Super Bowl for the next 4 years, then, it’s clear that Pete Carroll has to re-invent himself and the level of coaching. Otherwise, Pete will unfortunately prove to be the poster boy for the Peter Principle.


    • Great thoughts here, Ben & Joon.

      I would totally agree with you about Carroll’s unique ability to build a winning culture. In my opinion, I think that is 90% of any head coaches job, and Carroll has done it exceptionally well and continues to do that.

      Let’s remember that when the exodus of high priced veterans happened on the defense two years ago, most NFL talking heads were thinking Seattle was probably going to tank for a season. We all know Seattle went 10-6 that year with Carroll leaning into the run game and using Russell to take advantage of play action opportunities. I think he was doing that because he knew he had a vulnerable defense that ideally he wanted to limit the time they were onto the field. This led to a pretty predictable formula that only got so far. This year, they opened things up more for Russell and he had a career year that got them to 11 wins. They still had a very vulnerable defense.

      The reason why I am bringing this up is that I think the defense is still under construction and Pete will always coach to his strengths of his team. You asked what they need to do to build around Russ, and I would say that Russell probably is at his best when supported by a run game. Because of his height limitations, he’s never going to be a pure pocket passer. When the offense is balanced, Russell can be deadly to defend because the defense has be considered about too many factors. If you take the run game away, he’s defendable. That’s why I believe Carroll is going to remain determined to run.

      It didn’t help Seattle that the defense was still bad in 2019, and I think we are going to see some pretty major changes. I think it’s impressive that Carroll got them to 11 wins with that squad. The thing that impressed me the most was their unrelenting fight, and I think that is an extension of Carroll. Look how those Baltimore Ravens laid down to the Titans last week. Very rarely do you see a Carroll team do that.

      In terms of comparing to Brian Belichick, I would simply say that Belichick is the most brilliant mind in football and it isn’t close. He morphs his defenses season to season and at times, game to game. He also morphs his offense some. Nobody is better at figuring out how to take away what the other team does best. I think they will move on from Brady and probably still win titles as long as Belichick does.

      The thing with Belichick, though, is that other organizations have tried to mimic the New England way and have failed. Belichick knows how to scout talent throughout the league like no other. He knows how to take veterans that have struggled on other rosters and figure out how to use them more properly to their strengths on his roster.

      Carroll is very, very different. He has a trademark defense that he likes to run, and he prefers to get the right bodies in it running the same stuff but doing it so well that it just limits an offense. This 49er defense is built very similarly to a Carroll style defense. He also has a philosophy of being balanced on offense. Because he has been so successful in his core philosophy, I think it’s kind of hard to argue convincingly against it.

      This 49er team playing today? It really does look a lot like Pete Carroll’s ideal


  2. Glad someone brought up the conditioning thing. Also seems to me too many players like Baldwin and Kam have had to retire in their prime due to nagging issues. I have no basis to say anything, but are they not taught how to take care of themselves?


    • I think the neck injury to Kam was pretty freakish and he needed to retire from it. I think it is entirely possible with his style of play that something might have been going on in that area of his body where it was only going to be a matter of time. Kam made his money by providing seasons worth of ultra violent hits that were almost like mini car crashes. I think there is a reason why we see very few safeties play like he did, and I think the few who did also had shorter careers. But I think Kam chose to play that way.

      Somewhat similarly, Baldwin would often put his whole body on the line to make the spectacular play. They came with such frequency over the years, that they all sort of blur together. He was a much smaller man, but he played big.

      In looking at these players and a handful of others, it reminds me how hard players from a Pete Carroll coached team often play. Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Mychal Kendricks and Jadeveon Clowney all play with a particular violence. It’s all largely clean play, but it’s also pretty hard charged stuff, and that spills over to the offense, as well, with Lynch, Chris Carson, and others. It might be as simple of a thing that, if you are going to play for Pete, you better be a tough guy. That’s probably another reason why they need really top notch trainers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s