By: Peter Vandeventer | @PeteVandeventer
6-2? Not bad. Through the first month, this squad looked nearly unstoppable but have cooled as of late. There are some causes for concern, especially in the secondary, but if you don’t have any concerns about your team then you aren’t looking close enough.
I wrote an article at the start of the year pointing to what the Seahawks have to do to ‘win the last game of the year’. Let’s see how the Seahawks have done that so far:
Let Russ Cook
Assessment: emphatic YES
The Seahawks have done a complete 180° and that’s produced the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and top 3 in yards per game. Along the way, we’ve seen both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett pick apart defenses fueled by Russell’s MVP start. With 28 passing TDs, Russ is on pace to break Payton Manning’s passing TD record. He’s cooking. With Wilson’s success, comes success for his receivers. Lockett and Metcalf both are top 5 in terms of TDs while Lockett is top-20 in receiving yards and top-10 in receptions. Metcalf on the other hand is trailing only Stefon Diggs in terms of receiving yards while also playing one less game. When Russ eats, everyone eats.
Although there have been some hiccups from Russ over the last few weeks, you can expect him to break out of his turnover skid, just as he always has. With 8 interceptions through 8 games, Russ will likely eclipse his career-high of 11 interceptions reached in ‘16 and ‘17.
Keep in mind that Russ is still without Philip Dorsett, who’ll be out until the playoffs if not longer, as well as Josh Gordon who the NFL is still ignoring. Russ looks to have a clean second half with production that is sustainable.
Defend the Run
Assessment: Yeah, sort of
The only reason I say “sort of” is because nobody has needed to run against the Seahawks. Whether it’s getting behind the high-powered offense early, or simply knowing that the secondary is so porous that throwing the ball is just as safe when chewing clock and they can move it easier.
Currently, through eight games, the defense has had the 8th fewest rush attempts against them (204) and 5th lowest yards per attempt (3.7). So yes, they have done well against the run this year but have yet to be actually targeted here.
With Snacks in the fold and some stout run defenders that include Carlos Dunlap and Poona Ford, I’ll go out on a limb and say the Seahawks continue this trend and remain a top 10 run defense.
Assessment: Needs more consistency
The Seahawks have manufactured some pressure in previous weeks but it hasn’t been from the players you’d like to see. In the last two weeks vs San Francisco and Buffalo, the Seahawks have gone away from their usual mantra when rushing the passer. They’re playing a lot more nickel defense with an extra DB and Ken Norton Jr. hasn’t shied away from sending them...or the whole house for that matter. Dunlap had a great first game but the Seahawks’ most consistent pass rushers recently have been at linebackers (Bobby Wagner mainly) while Jarran Reed has been the most consistent down lineman sans a healthy Benson Mayowa. With Jamal Adams and Ryan Neal both having brilliant moments off the edge, the Seahawks have really spiced it up in the last two weeks:
But they’ve uncovered quite a strange trend when doing so:
Complex blitzes and masking the way they hide pressure has been extremely profitable (statistically) over the last 2 weeks but it has left the secondary on a bit of an island. With Dunlap joining the fold, Rasheem Green returning from a stinger, both Alton Robinson and Shaquem Griffin surviving well situationally, and Jarran Reed filling well in the middle, I feel as though we are trending towards being *too* heavily blitz based. Sacks are fun but pressures are just as important and more of an indication of the success of your pass rushers.
And this is coming from someone who blitzes about 50% of the time in Madden (with about the same success rate as the Seahawks) so it hurts me to admit it.
The rest of the way, I feel the front seven will do enough to create pressure and that can come without taking Jamal or Bobby out of coverage. Only time will tell but consistency is trending in the right direction for the second half of this season.
*knock on wood*
Limit Coaching Blips
Assessment: (I’m shifting the goalposts here) we have some issues but generally good
The Seahawks haven’t experienced issues with poor clock management and generally have been able to conserve timeouts for the end of halves. But you can blame most of the (very few) issues so far, on coaching.
Against the Cardinals, the Seahawks defensive staff just weren’t able to manufacture any pressure. Down the stretch vs Kyler Murray, the coaches decided that letting Murray sit in the pocket against three or four-man rushes were a good idea. No pressure got home, while the coverage continued to get shredded. It was a bit of a lose-lose situation with no consistent play, but no differing approach late has left a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Although that mentality has shifted since week 7, the concerns with the coaches, however, still prevail.
Every team will experience growing pains and this is no exception for a Seahawks team that has completely shifted away from the run-first focus that they’ve stuck with over the last decade. Do I expect some further mistakes? Of course. But the teams that limit coaching blunders and have coaches that give their players the best chance to win, will be successful. I feel the Seahawks and Pete Carroll will do just that. Their current trajectory has them finishing 12-4 but with ¾ of the NFC East and the Jets, I feel they have a decent shot at 13-3 if not 14-2. Not bad...not bad at all.