SB Nation's Seahawks blog, Field Gulls, is one of the finest team blogs we have. Please do yourself a favor and go check them out prior to tonight's Seahawks-Chiefs game. Danny Kelly from Field Gulls invited me on their podcast, which you can listen to here. I also asked Danny a few questions about the game, which he answered below. Thanks, Field Gulls!
1. Name one Seahawks offensive player you're excited about watching.
FG: How do you pick just one? It's tough, because Seattle has a few up-and-comers that are worth paying close attention to (WR Tyler Lockett, WR Kasen Williams, RB Thomas Rawls, the whole OL), but the guy I want to see do some good things out there is Christine Michael. It's a training camp cliche at this point to say that Michael has been standing out in practices, but he has — he's an extremely gifted athlete with elite start-stop explosiveness in a 230 pound frame — but for whatever reason, he can't quite put it all together once on the field. He fumbled the ball again in last week's game, negating a pretty decent outing running the football, because in Pete Carroll's world, it's all about that ball. Carroll would rather have nose-tackle Brandon Mebane carry the ball if it meant he could trust he wasn't going to cough it up.
So, once again, I'll be watching Christine Michael, hoping that he shows some semblance of consistency.
2. Name one Seahawks defensive player you're excited about watching.
FG: Last week's breakout player was rookie Frank Clark, so of course I'll be watching him again, but in Kam Chancellor's holdout-absence, I'll be watching safety Dion Bailey. The Seahawks need some depth at the position regardless of whether or not Kam returns to camp, and right now it's a pretty tight battle between Bailey, DeShawn Shead, Steven Terrell, and Ronald Martin for key backup roles. Bailey showed some instincts last week, running downhill to blow up ball carriers, and played with a fiery abandon. I would guess he'll get some major snaps.
3. Hey remember when the Chiefs beat the Seahawks last year? That was cool. Oh, I guess this isn't really a question.
4. What is the plan for the Seahawks first team? How long can we expect them to play?
FG: I haven't heard specifically — Pete Carroll tends to be pretty vague about these types of questions, but I would guess we'll see them for at least a few series, or perhaps the whole first quarter. On defense, you may not really be getting the "first team," for what it's worth. Last week, Seattle was missing Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Tharold Simon, and Jeremy Lane from their secondary (last year's starters minus Byron Maxwell), and I'd guess that may be the case again on Friday. So, while Seattle's starters will go up front, the Legion of Boom is really the Legion of Whom? (This has been a way overused joke lately so I say that with extreme self-loathing). On offense, I doubt Marshawn Lynch gets many carries either, and Jimmy Graham only got a few snaps in last week's game.
5. The Seahawks win all these games and now everyone wants to get paid. Will these contracts spell the end of the Seahawks run or is management savvy enough to continue building a winner?
FG: It doesn't spell the end of the Seahawks' run, in my opinion — they will simply need to continue to draft well and fill out the roster with quality first-contract players and affordable free agent filler. As you've seen from John Dorsey, the Ron Wolf / Ted Thompson management tree is pretty resourceful when it comes to building things "in-house" with a combination of high-volume drafting and commitment to development. The Seahawks have been one of the youngest teams in the NFL on a snap-weighted basis the last two years, both years in which they've gone to the Super Bowl (in fact, they were the youngest Super Bowl winner ever in 2014) so Pete Carroll and company have relied on playing young, relatively inexperienced players in key roles. This will not change.
Obviously, though, with Russell Wilson getting a mega-deal to stay around through 2019, it will become much more difficult to build the stacked teams Seattle put together in 2013 and 2014 because there's less spending money. The reality is, there's less margin for error in the draft now, because there's much less money to use to go acquire free agents like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Time to develop some weapons in house.
6. If Alex Smith is on the Seahawks, they win [how many] games this year?
FG: That's a tough question. I'm a strong believer that you need to have a good-to-great quarterback in this league to be successful, even if you have an elite defense. Without Russell Wilson, would the Seahawks be closer to the Bills, or the Jets? We saw what happened with the Cardinals in the playoffs last year as well. Having an upper echelon QB — a playmaker — is huge. I would probably say that Russell Wilson gets Seattle an extra 2-4 wins a year, so I'd put Seattle's win total around 9-10 with Smith at the helm. Hopefully this isn't something that completely underrates Smith, because I do think he's a solid choice for a quarterback, but it's hard to ignore the fact that Wilson leads all quarterbacks in the NFL over the last three years with 10 fourth-quarter comebacks and 15 game-winning drives.