This article is part of a series previewing the 2018-2019 NFL season where we will cover quick notes on all 32 NFL teams, favorite potential storylines, win-loss predictions, the playoff picture, and my picks to compete in Super Bowl LIII.
The Legion of Boom era is officially over in Seattle. Richard Sherman is a 49er (the team that made him known league wide after he rejected Michael Crabtree a chance to send San Francisco to the Super Bowl), Kam Chancellor retired due to sustaining too many head and neck injuries, and Earl Thomas is either going to sit out the season or get traded before the season starts. Ironically, Byron Maxwell is the remaining member of the group, but this is after he left the team to sign a large contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and eventually being traded to the Miami Dolphins after the Chip Kelly regime was let go. The Seahawks roster is very top heavy and has no depth whatsoever. Russell Wilson is a top five quarterback in the league, Doug Baldwin is a top ten receiver, and Bobby Wagner is 1A or 1B next to Carolina’s Luke Kuechly as the top middle linebacker in the game. After that, all the other position groups are below average in the league. The rebuild is on in Seattle, but with a quarterback as great as Wilson, a team never goes through a period of full-out tanking.
The offensive line has been the story for the Seahawks the last couple seasons. They have consistently been a bottom three unit in the league since the back-to-back Super Bowl appearance. This is a consequence of the front office’s priority to lock up their star defenders rather than their offensive lineman. Luckily for the team, Wilson is the most elusive quarterback in the NFL, and can run for his life week after week. Although Wilson can adjust to this mediocre group, that does not mean the running game can. Since the then retirement of franchise running back Marshawn Lynch, the team has been unable to replace his production, ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing offense each of the last two seasons. The franchise looked to address this concern by drafting rookie RB Rashaad Penny in the first round, but I guess the team does not realize that even if you have a great running back, it means nothing if no one can block for him… Outside of Baldwin, the receiving unit is nothing to get excited about. TE Jimmy Graham is now in Green Bay, WR Paul Richardson is in Washington, and WR Jermaine Kearse was traded last season along with a second-round pick for a Sheldon Richardson rental, knowing that a rebuild was coming this year. The twelfth man is going to be a frustrated bunch this year when their franchise quarterback is getting clobbered all season long.
The defense has taken a new shape this offseason. Long time cornerstones Sherman, Chancellor, DE Michael Bennett, and DE Cliff Avril are all gone, with Thomas most likely following behind them. All these major changes came without a concrete plan to replace their production. DE Dion Jordan showed promise last season after dealing with major issues off the field since he was the third overall selection of the 2013 NFL draft, but that is a large gamble to replace Avril or Bennett. CB Shaquill Griffin will be tasked with taking over Sherman’s lead corner position. SS Bradley McDougald should provide some stability at safety, but without Thomas, who has been the best free safety in the NFL for the past five seasons, the back of the defense is going to have trouble defending over the top. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense was one of the best in league history, but the unit this year will most likely rank in the bottom half of the NFL.
Things change rapidly in the NFL– that is why you must go all out when your window to win is wide open. The Seahawks were able to extend the contracts of most of their defensive pieces after the Super Bowl XLVIII victory because Wilson was making less than $1 million per season. Now, they are back to square one and a half, with the hard part of finding a franchise quarterback already solved. The Eagles followed the same model last offseason, and the Rams are continuing the trend in 2018. It works. There is plenty of examples now, but we now know that the drop off can just as dramatic as the rise. Wilson is too good to not win at least five games, but I don’t see them getting many more than that in 2018.
Favorite Potential Storyline: Russell Wilson is going to put up some crazy numbers in 2018. The offensive line will not be able to run block, and the defense is going to allow a lot of scoring. They’ll have no other choice but to let Wilson improvise all game. Do not be surprised if the Pete Carroll retiring rumors start swirling either. He tends to ditch organizations when things fall apart @USCTrojans.
Prediction: 6-10 (3rd in NFC West)
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are the nearly anonymous selection for the team that is on the rise and could make a jump into the postseason. The 49ers lord and savior, Jimmy Garoppolo, was gift wrapped by the New England Patriots and handed to the franchise for a mere second round draft pick in the 2018 draft. Head coach Kyle Shanahan could not have asked for anything more. The team was 1-10 in games not started by Jimmy G and finished the season with five straight wins with Garoppolo under center– three of those against playoff teams. The dude was spectacular, and everyone and their brother is confident that the success is going to carry right over to 2018. The ones that do not trust the quarterback that learned behind the GOAT his first four years in the NFL have been tough on Jimmy G this offseason. Garoppolo was seen going on a date with a pornstar, and then a few days later was quoted saying that he thought he was better than his mentor, Tom Brady. I get the criticism, but you know what– who honestly gives a fuck. If Jimmy G comes out and wins eleven games, and gets to the NFC Championship, no one is going to care if he may or may not have had sex with a pornstar– it really is not anyone’s business.
Okay, enough of the bullshit, let’s get to the offense.
This offense is starting to look a lot like a Shanahan offense. The acquisition of RB Jerick McKinnon is a much better fit for the zone running offense Shanahan runs compared to former 49ers RB Carlos Hyde, and I see McKinnon having a monster year. The team does not have any elite level playmakers in the passing game, but some players have strengths that Shanahan and Jimmy G should be able to bring out. WR Marquise Goodwin is one of the fastest players leaguewide and can blow by his defenders deep. Veteran WR Pierre Garcon has been in the NFL for a long time and is a great possession receiver. TE George Kittle had a promising rookie season and should continue to thrive with Garoppolo throwing him the ball. The strength of this offense which gives me a lot of confidence is the offensive line. The tackles, LT Joe Stanley and RT Mike McGlinchey, along with free agent signee center Weston Richburg provide a solid foundation for the offense. If the 49ers can get average play from the guard position, Jimmy G should have plenty of time to make throws all over the field.
The offense will be able to put points on the board, but the defense might have a hard time with NFC offenses. The defensive line is young, led by DT DeForest Buckner, and has the potential to create a strong pass rush, but that will heavily rely on huge improvements from last year’s second overall pick DE Solomon Thomas, and DE Arik Armstead. LB Ruben Foster has the potential to replace Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly as the best middle linebacker in the league in the future, but he needs to keep himself out of trouble. CB Richard Sherman is a great veteran to bring in to establish a culture, and help mentor a young secondary, but he is now 30, and is coming off a bad Achilles injury. CB Ahkello Witherspoon and FS Adrian Colbert are coming off promising rookie campaigns and look to continue to trend in the positive direction. Potential is the one word I would use to describe this defense, and potential does not do any good if it does not live up to it.
Nothing would really surprise me with the 49ers this season. Jimmy G could be the next elite quarterback in the league and could carry the team to a Super Bowl this year, or he could come back down to earth, and finish behind the Seahawks this season. My prediction is they will fall somewhere in the middle of those scenarios. I still think the team needs to add a few more elite players before making a legit run for the playoffs. The team will have plenty of cap space to sign difference makers next offseason and could address the final concerns in the 2019 draft. The 49ers are a good “one year away” candidate and should be relevant for many years to come with the combination of Garoppolo, Shanahan, and general manager John Lynch.
Favorite Potential Storyline: Jimmy G needs to go on a date with a different pornstar every Friday before games. I need to see the media’s reaction to something like that– it would be glorious.
Prediction: 9-7 (2nd in NFC West)