A Couple Thoughts About The Seahawks Heading Into The December Stretch

With a couple days removed from Seattle’s relatively dominant win in Philadelphia, I think we’ve learned a few things about this club. We have learned that the defense plays a lot better with Quandre Diggs at free safety. We’ve learned that the defensive line isn’t perhaps as bad as we thought it was a few weeks ago. Perhaps most importantly, though, we have learned this team can win ball games when their best player, Russell Wilson, isn’t at his best.

Here are a couple thoughts about this team that have been running through my mind lately.

Is the defense improving enough to make Seattle a major contender this year?

Over the last couple games, Seahawk fans have enjoyed a defense that came alive against the upstart 49ers and the struggling Eagles. Skeptics can point to this Eagles match and say that Philly didn’t have their top offensive linemen and receivers in the game, and Seattle feasted on that. That’s fair, but you can also say that Seattle didn’t have it’s best pass rusher in the game, and then lost their second best pass rusher in the second quarter.

Further more, when looking at the game against the 49ers, skeptics are going to have a much harder drawing up reasons why Seattle handled that then unbeaten team in their own house. Yes, the 49ers didn’t have their all world tight end, but Seattle still snuffed out what had been their dominant run game, and they made Jimmy Garoppolo look awful at times.

On the surface, it is easy to see why Seattle has had a sudden uptick on their defense. Here are a few of them.

Quandre Diggs is a much better free safety than Tedric Thompson and rookie Marquise Blair. He actually might be a lot closer to Earl Thomas than maybe many imagined, and has been a difference maker in back to back games as a starter. This has likely settled down strong safety Bradly McDougald and all three starting linebackers. They can step onto the field knowing that the back end will play assignment sound football, and that allows each cagey veteran to simply focus on their own task. This is a big deal.

Ken Norton has done a better job mixing up the defense. I think this is also a credit to Quandre Diggs and his veteran leadership. Now Norton and Pete Carroll can ask more out of their players because they have enough veterans on the defense that will understand the adjustments. This is making the defense a lot less predictable for quarterbacks.

The defensive line is starting to show positive signs of depth emerging. We know Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed are two really good football players. We also know that Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods, and Poona Ford are really nice depth pieces all capable of quality starter play. Up until the game in Philly, we still had major question marks on Ziggy Ansah, and youngsters Rasheem Green and LJ Collier. Against Philly, Ansah looked more powerful and explosive against both Eagle tackles, and Rasheem Green had a great game. The latter of that is really great news. Quietly, Green is starting to become productive as a pass rusher, and against the run. Collier is still a pretty raw rookie, but even he flashed a bit against the run in Philly stretching out an outside run play for no gain.  These are all positives.

For a bonus X factor in all this, Ken Norton is finally figuring out ways of using speedy undersized linebacker Shaquem Griffin on the field. Mainly, he’s now being deployed as a speed rusher, and so far, he has been making an impact.

It is certainly possible with the insertion of Diggs at free safety, and the different looks that can now be utilized coupled with the improved pass rush, this defense can make a much bigger leap forward during these final five games. What will be a big positive carryover effect into next season is if youngsters such as Rasheem Green, Marquise Blair, LJ Collier, Ugo Amadi and others look like quality starters and contributors in the making. That can shape the direction of the off-season in a major way.

Is the offense slowing down a bit a legit concern?

Heading into the MNF game in San Francisco, Seattle had be red hot offensively, and nobody had been hotter than Russell Wilson. Since then, Russell has looked a little more normal, but it is worth noting that he had to face top defenses on the road in back to back games.

Right now, I’m not overly concerned about this. I actually think he played a fairly decent game against the 49ers despite the overtime red zone interception he threw. I think it was the game in Philly that was much more of a clunker because of the missed easy touchdown toss to Jacob Hollister, but Tom Brady also didn’t look great against this Eagles defense, either. I fully expect Russ to bounce back, but even in that, I do have a few lingering concerns.

For one, I’m more than a bit concerned about the level of play Seattle can reasonably expect for center Joey Hunt. Personally, I think Hunt is a technically sound player who is very smart, but he is also a player with some glaring physical limitations. In back to back games, Philly and SF were both able to line up a much stronger defensive tackle directly over him and bull rush him on third downs for easy sacks on Russell. This is on tape, and if a team has a big powerful defensive tackle, they will surely look to emulate this. Of the games left on the schedule, all but the Cardinals have this type of player on their roster. Seattle will have to figure out a way to deal with this.

Secondly, for as good as the offensive line has been at times, veteran left guard Mike Iupati has had rough outings in the last couple games. Against the 49ers, he allowed the middle linebacker a free run at the QB twice, and against the Eagles, he had a couple false starts. With a limited athlete at center, Seattle needs its other veteran starters to play cleaner than this. Perhaps finally being at home this Monday night will help.

Thirdly, I think depth at receiver and tight end is legitimately being tested a bit. Seattle was down to one healthy starting caliber tight end against the Eagles in Jacob Hollister. When he limped off the field early in that match, my heart sank into my bowels. Hollister had been coming on strong, and Seattle can not afford losing him to injury. Fortunately, he came back in. Also, DK Metcalf had a rough outing against the Eagles, dropping three deep passes. At least two should have been relatively easy catches. This all didn’t help when Tyler Lockett didn’t look fully healthy. Seattle needs better play from Metcalf and they need to not lose more players at these positions if they want to keep this offense humming.

Lastly, Chris Carson has officially become a fumbling machine. This is honestly the thing that has me most nervous moving forward, and I suspect we are going to start seeing a lot more Rashaad Penny during this final stretch of games. I think the smart move is to mix in both players more. Carson has seen a lot of carries and catches, and I think it’s possible he’s a bit worn down. Personally, I think he might be more valuable on third downs because of his pass blocking and pass catching abilities. What I would like to see is more of a mixture of Penny on run downs because, frankly, he’s fresher, and even with both backs being equally healthy, Penny is probably more of the electric home run hitter.

In the end, I don’t want to make an overly big deal about all of this. As long as this team has a healthy Russell Wilson, I think this offense will still likely be one of the better ones in the league, but I do think they need to get better play out of the offensive line, they need to not lose the attrition battle at receiver/tight end, and they need to stop the fumbling. If these three things happen and the defense continues to improve, Seattle is a legitimate Super Bowl contending team this year. Book it.

Go Hawks.


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