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Do the Seahawks have a better supporting cast than the Broncos?
1244: The rundown of a Week 1 showdown
From poles to polls: Just like Steve Largent, Rainn Wilson, or the lead singer of Hart stepping up to the 12th Man Flag before a game, so too have Seahawks fans raised up Sunday’s “Are you biased?” survey. With 800 votes and counting, the final results are assured to reveal your general biases and so far I would have to argue that Seattle fans—maybe Seaside Joe fans especially—are remarkably measured.
If you have missed yesterday’s article rounding up more Seahawks training camp news, or the fan survey attached within it, it is not too late for you to vote and to close this thing out after we hit 1,000 responses.
I will not reveal too much before then but one of the closest votes to this point has been the question of whether or not Seahawks fans expect to start 1-0 after hosting the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. It is fair to say that a fanbase so used to winning under Pete Carroll for the last 10 years could be biased towards always expecting to win, even after trading the team’s most important player to the very first opponent they must face in a regular season game after that move.
And Seattle may very well win that game—I believe it benefits the Seahawks more than the Broncos to have Wilson’s first game outside of Seattle be…in Seattle—but any clear bias would be evident in a this-or-that scenario that is as simple as “Do you think your favorite team is going to win?”
Rationality stands little chance against the magnetism of being a fan pulling your expectations towards everlasting optimism.
But through 800 votes, a little more than half of you (and I realize that this is only a gut feeling answer, six weeks ahead of schedule, with no idea of what will really transpire) expect Russell Wilson to have a better record after Week 1 than the Seahawks after Week 1.
Want to change that? Get your vote in!
But does Wilson have a better OFFENSIVE supporting cast than the one he left behind?
That’s what Seaside Joe has told me he wants to cover this morning, and I always listen to the beast that lies within these aching fingers and sore knuckles that clack the keys each day.
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Seahawks vs Broncos supporting cast-Starter by Starter
It’s important that I am careful with my language and the expectation that I have set for you, so let me make one point clear: Since I did write “Did Wilson leave behind a better supporting cast than the one he has now?” then I must explain that I do not mean that Wilson could be starting for the Seahawks offense that currently exists.
That would be impossible.
If the Seahawks had kept Wilson, then of course they wouldn’t have Charles Cross and Kenneth Walker, wouldn’t have Noah Fant, and wouldn’t have the same budgetary space that they did to make certain moves. Seattle likely also operates differently in their negotiations with Duane Brown and Brandon Shell, and perhaps the Seahawks would even add other players to try to get Wilson over the “hump” that bothered him enough to request a trade.
This is not that universe vs this universe; this is within the current universe.
Who has the better supporting cast: Russell Wilson or one of those three studs competing to replace Russell Wilson?
WR1—Courtland Sutton v Tyler Lockett
Being a “WR1” is more than about targets, catches, and yards. It’s also about being that leader in the locker room, setting an example for the rest of the receivers, and having that spirit to demand the ball with the game on the line. The Seahawks have two such players, but Lockett’s advantage in experience and his consistency over the last four seasons really pushes him over Metcalf in this one regard.
The Broncos drafted a player two years after Sutton to become the WR1, but even after having missed practically all of 2020, Sutton is the most established bet to be Wilson’s top receiver.
Last season, Sutton returned from injury to play in all 17 games, catching 58 of 98 targets for 776 yards and two touchdowns. Two seasons earlier, playing with Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen, Sutton mostly thrived with Flacco: 39-of-60 targets, 10.6 Y/A. And mostly struggled with Lock: 22-of-40, 280 yards, 7 Y/A.
The addition of Wilson at quarterback should help Sutton get back to being the deep ball home run threat he was meant to be (he only caught two touchdowns from Teddy Bridgewater and Lock last season) and Sutton finished second in Average Depth of Target in 2021 at 16.5.
Tyler Lockett was third in that category at 15.9.
Lockett is coming off a career-high 1,175 yards, with 11 yards per target, 16.1 yards per catch, and eight touchdowns. Reaching that volume of yards again may be possible, but Lockett could struggle to replicate the same rate stats if there’s a considerable downgrade at quarterback, which we know is probable. But Lockett has consistently proven to be a viable number one threat and he has only missed two games in his seven-year career.
WR2—Jerry Jeudy v DK Metcalf
This is an easy one and it’s not because Jeudy is hopeless. It’s only that DK Metcalf has shown up every week in his career, has been dominant at times, and even needing to improve several facets of his game has developed into one of the best receiving threats in the NFL already.
The 15th overall pick in 2020 (and taken ahead of both CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson), Jeudy has struggled to replicate the success of some other former Alabama receivers in the last 10 years. As Lock’s number one target in 2020, Jeudy wasn’t ready for that role when Sutton went on injured reserve in Week 2. In year two, Jeudy missed six of the first seven games with an ankle sprain and when he returned he averaged only 44 yards per game and failed to find the end zone.
After three days of struggling in Broncos training camp, Jeudy finally shined on Saturday. Will that continue through the rest of camp and into Week 1?
On the contrary, DK Metcalf is still Wilson’s favorite receiver.
Advantage: DK Metcalf
WR3—Tim Patrick v Dee Eskridge / Depth at WR
It’s fair for Broncos fans to have optimism of a Jeudy Jumpstart given the upgrade at quarterback, but maybe it’s Tim Patrick who will actually benefit the most from the change. Patrick has been a steady presence for Denver over the last two years, averaging 52 catches, 740 yards, 5 TD, and not straying far from those numbers in either season.
By most accounts, it would seem that Wilson will favor targeting his receivers over tight ends and running backs, so Patrick will likely continue to get opportunities even if Jeudy and Sutton are starting. I think it would be fair to compare Patrick’s value to someone like that of the Chargers’ Mike Williams, so when that guy is your WR3 instead of your WR2, it says even more about the depth.
The speed threat is 2020 second round pick K.J. Hamler, activated from PUP on Monday after having both ACL and hip surgeries in the last year. But Hamler is still much more projection than production and Denver has a number of receivers coming for his target share.
Both Wilson and head coach Nathaniel Hackett singled out receiver Montrell Washington for his efforts on separate days last week. The fifth round pick is slated to be the kick and punt returner, so he is a lock to make the roster and sit in the receivers room, so he is one step away from playing on offense.
With five players essentially locked in, Denver could keep 0-2 more receivers and Kendall Hinton would seem to be the safest choice, followed by Tyrie Cleveland. The Broncos also have former Eagles receiver Travis Fulgham.
We do not really know where the Seahawks depth at receiver stands right now, so this is not an indictment of what could be, but this is flat out the truth about how it is: The Seahawks could have the worst wide receiver depth in the NFL.
Dee Eskridge has not been available often enough and that has continued in training camp.
Freddie Swain has been inconsistent enough for the team to be potentially happier with Marquise Goodwin in the role, even though Goodwin has caught all of 55 passes and scored six touchdowns over the last four seasons. When a team’s “reasons for optimism” at receiver are Cody Thompson and Dareke Young, it’s time to consider what else you’ll be satisfied with given certain circumstances.
If DK Metcalf is the appetizer and Tyler Lockett is the main course, the rest of Seattle’s offerings at receiver for dessert would amount to a Kit Kat bar topped with whipped cream and craisins.
RB Duo—Javonte Williams&Melvin Gordon v Rashaad Penny&Ken Walker III
If Wilson had any gripes about playing for a team with strengths at running back, he didn’t show it by waiving his no-trade clause to go to the Broncos. You know…that franchise that basically started the “running backs don’t matter” movement in the late-90’s by turning Terrell Davis into a Hall of Famer, then getting 1,000-yard seasons from Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, (Mike Anderson again), and Tatum Bell through 2006.
With the exceptions of Davis and Portis, Williams and Gordon could be better than all of those running backs. And Javonte Williams could be the best running back prospect in Denver since Knowshon Moreno in 2009—if not dipping all the way back to the 80’s.
As a matter of fact, Moreno is the only running back the Broncos have picked in the first round since 1985 and they haven’t picked one in the top-10 since Otis Armstrong in 1973.
Williams’ rookie season indicates that he could be as special as Armstrong or Davis, as last year he led all NFL running backs—by a lot—in broken tackles per rush attempt. Williams played in just 51-percent of the snaps but had 203 carries for 903 yards and 31 broken tackles; with 6.5 attempts for every broken tackle, Williams was well ahead of second-place Rhamondre Stevenson at 8.3.
Nick Chubb was fourth at 9.9.
Melvin Gordon was seventh at 10.2.
Forced to make a list of three running backs who could be first-team All-Pro this season, I would struggle to keep Williams’ name off of it and at 22 he’s still younger than most NFL rookies. Williams also caught 43 passes for 316 yards.
Sunday’s poll asked “Are you biased?” and I feel even more confident that I’m not when I say that Javonte Williams has a better resume than Rashaad Penny, and better odds of having a breakthrough season in 2022. The fact that Williams is going from Bridgewater and Lock to Wilson should only amplify his talents in Denver.
And Gordon was probably a better prospect in 2015 than Williams in 2021. In the modern NFL, 900 rushing yards is the new 1,100 rushing yards and Melvin Gordon has had 1,904 yards in two seasons with the Broncos. He’s relatively durable, he breaks tackles, he can catch the ball, and Rob Staton compared him to Wilson before the 2015 draft.
There are a TON of interesting NFL backfield combos right now—Browns, Jets, Bills, Jaguars, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings to name some—and the Seahawks absolutely belong in that group. Who is a bigger Ken Walker III fan than Seaside Joe? I’ve also argued in Penny’s defense countless times.
In this one case, Wilson happened to choose a team that has a running back duo that combines experience and upside that few, if any team, can match.
Tight End 1—Albert Okwuegbunam v Will Dissly
Tight End 2—Eric Saubert v Noah Fant
Tight End Depth—Greg Dulcich v Colby Parkinson
It’s kind of hard to assess the pecking order in either camp, but the easiest way to explain the Broncos tight ends is: Albert O should have run away with the role as number one, but he hasn’t. Rookie Greg Dulcich had a real shot to get playing time right away, but has missed time with injury. And sixth-year journeyman Eric Saubert has been a star at camp and could bypass them both for now.
If you think of Okwuegbunam as a project who has yet to put the key ingredients together, and Dulcich as a rookie who is a rookie, then Saubert has a case to be the next Gary Barnidge. Another journeyman, Eric Tomlinson, could win a role as a blocker.
We know that Dissly’s growth hit snag after his second major injury in 2019, but he’s 26 with over 1,000 snaps under his belt from the last two seasons and heading into his second year with Shane Waldron. That alone gives him an advantage over all Denver tight ends. Fant is a 24-year-old with over 2,200 career snaps and were he on the Broncos, would be their TE1 right now.
LT—Garrett Bolles v Charles Cross
We love Charles Cross here. But he’s in the position of being a rookie and Bolles has had a good career to date.
RT—Billy Turner(???) v Jake Curhan (?)
Neither situation is solidified at this point. In Denver’s case, Turner should have the advantage to win the starting gig but he has been on PUP and yet to participate, giving Calvin Anderson and Tom Compton the chance to make him rue the day he decided to get hurt. Turner has played all along the offensive line, starting 43 games for the Packers over the past three seasons.
Curhan enters training camp with a lead over rookie Abe Lucas, but could lose that gig eventually, if not soon. Stone Forsythe is not being counted out.
I think in many cases with offensive linemen, money speaks the loudest and Turner only got a one-year, $2.5 million deal in free agency. But Seattle has no advantage here until we actually see the players face more action. I can’t choose a favorite.
LG—Dalton Risner v Damien Lewis
Risner enters his fourth season as Denver’s starting left guard after being the 41st overall pick (the Ken Walker pick) in 2019. He’s considered a veteran leader and a cool dude but that hasn’t made his job safe as he struggled for the last couple of years. Will new head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offense be a better fit?
Rookie guard Netane Muti has been an early star of training camp and could push to start on either the left or right side.
Lewis is in a similar position as Risner, but faces less competition to start. It seems like there is little doubt that Damien Lewis is the left guard, but he needs to improve upon his 2021 season if he wants to earn the job in Seattle long-term.
RG—Quinn Meinerz v Gabe Jackson
This could also be Muti’s job by the time the Broncos face the Seahawks in Week 1. Meinerz was a fan favorite for probably all 32 teams headed into the 2021 NFL Draft because, get this, he shows his belly sometimes.
But Meinerz was a project at either center or guard and so far he’s yet to earn a guaranteed spot at any of those positions.
Gabe Jackson is a good player, but Seattle’s decision to tender Phil Haynes for over $2 million and to load the position with options (technically only the Commanders carry more guards on the roster right now than the Seahawks do) suggests that the team could decide to move on for cap reasons.
For now, Jackson is the starter and that’s an advantage.
C—Lloyd Cushenberry III v Austin Blythe
Mile High Huddle called Cushenberry “a mediocre option” at center in June, citing a lack of strength and that he was a “bottom-three” center in 2020. Graham Glasgow has been unable to unseat Cushenberry because of injuries and again, Meinerz hasn’t won that role either.
The end story on Denver’s offensive line is that outside of Bolles, it is in bad shape. Welcome to the Russell Wilson era, Broncos.
Blythe was let go by the Rams in 2021 and no team was all that interested in his services until finally he became insurance for the Kansas City Chiefs and spent most of the year on the bench. He’s at-best adequate, but Gregg Bell cites Blythe as one of the FEW OL standouts in camp so far, which could just mean that he’s a huge upgrade from Ethan Pocic.
Seattle has the better top-end receiving weapons and slightly more stability on the interior of the offensive line. I could have also probably given the left guard advantage to Lewis, but the difference is relatively negligible.
Wilson has the all-important LT position, but the Seahawks can’t feel bad about Charles Cross. At all. Denver has better depth at receiver and a more proven backfield at this moment, yet Penny and Walker have a shot to be special too.
Who has the better supporting cast: Wilson or Geno/Lock?
Neither of these teams has a definitive argument for the better supporting cast and a lot of this is dependent on how Hackett and Waldron choose to use their respective personnel groups. Wilson will make his wide receivers look better than they have in the past, while Metcalf and Lockett now take on more responsibility for the success of the Seahawks passing game with a downgrade at quarterback.
If I was Russell Wilson and I could choose Seattle’s offensive with Cross—which is impossible—then I think that is the better supporting cast right now. Given that Seattle’s supporting cast got better because of the Wilson trade though, I believe that he’s in the better situation than if he had stayed with the Seahawks.
What’s your vote? Tell me in the comments.
And don’t forget to vote in the survey: I’ve received over 100 more votes since I said we hit 800!
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