Beauty in the the eye of the beholder. Some will look at the Seattle Seahawks in this game against Atlanta and see an unworldly talented quarterback in his prime finally being given the freedom to cook with his offense, and they will have big blue and green hearts bulging out where their eyeballs should be. Others will see a defense with a defensive line that got gashed in the first half by an old NFC West foe and they will be determined to believe that it will be the position group to hold them back from a championship. Some will see a newly acquired superstar safety that made impact play after impact play and they will be perfectly fine to look past the imperfections of the defensive line, while others will look at the sloppiness of the new formed offensive line and they will sweat bullets every time the unworldly star quarterback drops behind center.
For me, looking at this early version of the 2020 Seattle Seahawks so far, I can honestly say that I am in love with this team. I have been in love with the quarterback since the preseason of his rookie year, and I have been in love with the head coach since he took over the franchise ten years ago, but I am in love with this squad, beauty marks, warts and all. I love what I see at receiver, tight end, running back. I love the energy and speed that I see on the defense. Above all, I trust that things will get better on both the offensive and defensive lines as the season hums a long.
But for now, let’s break down this game.
Praise be, Pete Carroll let Russell Wilson cook. I’m not on Twitter, but sometimes I snoop. All throughout this off-season, Seahawks Twitter (and Seattle Sports Radio) has been an unending noisy movement about letting Russ cook on the offense. It has annoyingly inspired a Fire Pete Carroll crowd, and it’s only been slightly less annoying than hearing all the undless speculation over whether Seattle would/should bring back Jadeveon Clowney. While I agreed with the notion that Carroll should allow Russell more control over the offense, I thought the whole movement was more than a bit overblown. During this game, it was great to see Russ cooking. This is the evolution this offense needs to now take with Russell now, and I am primed to see more of it. I am even more primed to see the Let Russell Cook movement be put to rest. Fingers crossed there.
Speaking of Russell, he just looked marvelous throughout this game. He stayed poised under fire, and he took what the defense gave him. This is one of the very best football players on the planet, and he might now be the best quarterback on the planet. This is not hyperbole. Seattle is blessed. Savor this time with him playing in the great Northwest and tune out the Colin Cowherd led noise about whether or not he will play his whole career up here. Savor it now.
I loved watching how much speed the defense played with. It’s just one game but this might be one of the faster defenses Seattle has had under Carroll. Yes, there are still concerns about the defensive line, but Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams, Marquise Blair, Benson Mayowa, Quandre Diggs and even Lano Hill all looked really fast on the field. I expect this group to get better with run fits up front, and I expect youngster high pick players like LJ Collier and Jordyn Brooks to factor in more as the season wears on. I might be still in a bit of a minority opinion, but I’m actually not nervous about this side of the ball. There was sloppiness and mistakes, but you can’t teach speed and instincts and I saw a lot of speed and instincts on the field today. I’m kinda excited about this group.
I thought Benson Mayowa looked the part as the new starting Leo end. He had two highly impactful rushes on fourth down that resulted in a swatted pass and real pretty looking sack of Matt Ryan. I’m the first to admit that he needs more help, but I really liked what I saw from him. He needs a mate, so go get him one.
I also loved the varied looks that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr utilized with his revamped unit. Not only did he deploy newly acquired superstar safety Jamal Adams in various ways throughout the defense, I don’t think I’ve seen the lines blurred more between a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense more under Carroll as I did in this game. There was legitimate concern with some fans that Carroll would not alter his standard 4-3 defense to take advantage of all the abilities Adams offers, and I think those concerns can be put to rest. Based on this one game, I would say that this defense could be even more of a hybrid scheme than in years past, and I welcome it. The strength of this group is going to be its linebackers and defensive backs, and lining up in a traditional 4-3 probably isn’t going to take advantage of those strengths. Unless they make some big acquisition to the defensive line (they could), I would expect more of this.
The offensive line had some shaky moments (as expected ), but I thought new center Ethan Pocic looked decent going against one of the best defensive tackles in the game. This is a good sign.
Circling back to letting Russ cook, I love the way Seattle varied the tempo of the offense. This is really how I want to see Russ cook. I don’t need him throwing 40 to 50 times a game, but I want to see him being given the green light to go up tempo whenever he feels like it will be to the offense’s advantage. I just think that he plays at a whole other level this way more times than not, and this is the balance that needs to happen between what suits him and how Carroll likes to soak up clock. They need to ride that balance. If they do that, I really like what this team can be this year.
For as explosive as Russell was in this offense, they played without Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Rashaad Penny. Colin Cowherd can suck it with the idea that John Schneider hasn’t provided Russ enough weapons. This team could have one of the more loaded offenses in the league as the season drags on. That’s exciting.
The 49ers lost. That’s always fun.
The Defensive line simply doesn’t feel like it’s all there yet. They got gashed inside early by Todd Gurley, and I can only image how Seahawk Twitter was reacting. That said, second year defensive end LJ Collier got some good early pressure that forced an intentional grounding call, and I thought at times, Jarran Reed got some pressure, as well. As the game wore on, both Poona Ford and Reed started coming up with nice run stops inside. They need help here, and I suspect it will be coming soon, more on that later.
For as much speed and energy that the defense played with, there was a lot of slop on the field. There was a busted coverage in the middle of the fourth quarter when Jamal Adams collided with Shaquill Griffin that gave Matt Ryan an easy touchdown toss to help Atlanta climb back into the game. There was a number of missed tackles, other leaky coverages, and I think there was some missed run fits early in the game. I’m not overly concerned here and I think with no preseason games, these sort of mistakes can be expected. That said, Seattle has to work out these kinks for this style of defense to work. I expect them to get it sorted out but it might take a few games.
As expected, the new look offensive line had some rough spots, especially on the right side of the ball. Damien Lewis might become a really solid pro bowl level starter for Seattle, but he is a rookie, and in this game, he looked like a rookie. It was baptism by fire having to block Grady Jarrett (one of the very best pass rushing defensive tackles in the game), but on top of giving up early pressures, he also had a few false starts later in the game. Right tackle Brandon Shell also looked a bit iffy. These two need to settle in more and build chemistry. I think that is going to take a few games.
Star receiver DK Metcalf dropped a couple catch-able balls, and one of those was a super easy touch pass that bounced out of his hands. He made up for those by grabbing a couple critical go balls (one that resulted in a pretty fourth and three touchdown in the red zone), but he can not have a season filled with these kind of drops. I expect him to clean that up.
This is my subcategory where I almost routinely bitch about the officiating, so here I go. There were a number of no calls in this game that effected both clubs. There was a face-mask on a Russell Wilson sack that wasn’t called, there was a false start on the Falcons that wasn’t called, and Seattle’s defense caught a few breaks coming in early on Falcon receivers and no pass interference was called. If I was a Falcons fan, I would have been screaming at my set about that. NFL refs are often like centrists, they tend to get hate from all sides, but it is what it is. Do better, refs!
There is a lot to like about this initial showing from the 2020 Seahawks. It is fantastic to see Pete Carroll lean into Russell Wilson. He has to do that more now than ever. We need to see more of that. It doesn’t have to mean passing forty plus times a game, but it can mean letting Russ dictate more how to take advantages of the defenses that he is seeing. Just let him cook however way he chooses. Russ just wants to win, he needs that other Super Bowl title to strengthen his legacy, so trust him to make the best decisions.
As pretty as it was seeing Russ pass against the Falcons like that, don’t expect that to be a thing game in and game out. I think the Falcon defenders were selling out a bit to stop the run and that left opportunities against their coverage. Other defensive coordinators will see what Russ just did to them and they might be less likely to do the same. This is why Seattle must still stay committed to the run game and take advantage of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. There are going to be games where Seattle will likely need to grind things out. Expect those games to happen.
I don’t want to overstate how much Seattle needs to shore up their defensive line because I think there are other Seahawk writer sorts who are going to continue making a big stink out of it. I will just say that, if anything, I think Seattle needs to bring in better depth at defensive tackle, and I expect it to happen probably this week. After the first week of the season, teams can sign veterans on the market and they do not have to offer any guarantees to their deals. I think we are going to see a lot of movement this week throughout the league, and I suspect this is when we see Seattle make this sort of move. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they bring an another veteran edge rush, a la Clay Matthews to help add to the edge, as well.
If Seattle were to somehow manage bringing in Damon Harrison or Marcell Dareus at defensive tackle along with Matthews, that will likely dramatically change the complexion of the defensive front. If they do that, then I think it is safe to raise expectations for this side of the ball. It could be a really exciting unit with all that speed and talent on the back end. I think the club knows this, and we could easily see something happen within the next 48 hours. Fingers crossed there.