Oh, how refreshing it is to have had a week away from this 2020 Seattle Seahawk football team.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed this version of the club, and all their merriment. They have squeezed out a 5-0 start to their season (first time in franchise history), and it has been a thrilling ride. Even more, Seahawk fans have been witnessing historic passing numbers from swashbuckling quarterback Russell Wilson.
It’s just that three of those five games where one score wins that came down to critical stops at the end of each game from a defense that has yet to have truly found itself, and that can put a lot on a middle aged ticker. Seriously.
An uncomfortable truth exists that these 5-0 Seahawks could be, at worst, 2-3, and that discomfort might not sit so well with some fans moving forward. Fortunately those fans have this blog, where I don’t focus too much on the analytics because I am too cheap to subscribe to Pro Football Focus, and like Russell Wilson and his head coach Pete Carroll, I draw from positives as a vital means of moving forward.
In short, football is a game of inches, and if we get too caught up on tape and analytics, then we loose the magic of the game as fans. Personally, I don’t want to loose that magic. So, while I can acknowledge that if Viking running back Alexander Mattison had simply cut to his right on fourth and short at the end of the game a couple Sundays ago, Minnesota would have dealt Seattle their first loss, the simple truth is that in the moment, he didn’t, and Seattle stopped him short, and that’s football.
Football is the ultimate “sh*t happens” team sport, and if you want to get caught up on those “ifs,” I can fully play that game. For example, if David Moore had hauled in that deep pass from Russell Wilson earlier in the second half, Seattle would have expanded it’s lead to a point where it would have been much more difficult for the Kirk Cousins to dig out of the point deficit. Further more, if on the next play, Russell had put a little less mustard on his next deep pass to DK Metcalf, Metcalf would have walked into the end zone for an easy score. If either of these plays happened, Seattle could have beaten the Vikings much more comfortably.
Ifs do not matter in football. You don’t win with ifs and you don’t loose with ifs. They don’t show up in the stats, and they don’t show up in the standings. How a team wins doesn’t really matter at the end of the final whistle. It just matters that the team has won, and Seattle should be celebrated for being 5-0.
How they got here, however, is quite a big distinction from the Pete Carroll Seattle Seahawks we have known in the past. Long gone is any intimidating defense. Also gone is a punishing offensive run game that could grind clock and wear defenses down by the second half of games. This is understandably hard for some fans to take. Admittedly, I am one of those (especially in terms of the defense), but I also have to admit that in their place are some pretty exciting things.
Thus far, Russell Wilson has been having a monster MVP worthy campaign as a passer, and he is now being supported by exciting offensive weapons, and an offensive line that has actually evolved into a good pass blocking unit. Seahawk fans weened on football from the Mike Holmgren era have been longing to see this happen under Pete Carroll for years. Finally, they have gotten their wish of letting Russ cook, and he’s been cooking.
Big bravos need to go out to Pete Carroll for adjusting his philosophy a bit because, frankly, this is probably what Seattle needed to do if they are going to compete for a championship this season. Seattle simply does not have enough talent to dominate on defense right now, and leaning into the talents of their best player is probably the right path to winning, even if that path might cut a bit against the grain of what the head coach might prefer his club to ideally be.
Here are some of my observations, and thoughts about the club as they move forward.
This isn’t your father’s Seattle Seahawks and that is okay (I’ve made peace with it)
Probably like many of you, I love football, and my passions are deep. I truly believe that it is the ultimate team sport, as it largely dependent on units playing collectively well. Two of my favorite things about football are great defensive line play, and a punishing run game. When Seattle went to back to back Super Bowls in 2013-2014, those where things that Seattle had in its favor, along with a plucky play making quarterback, and a uniquely talented secondary. It was incredibly easy for me to fall deeply in love with those teams, and it is hard to shake that love.
The 2020 Seattle Seahawks are far removed from those clubs. Presently, they don’t have anything close to a solid defensive line, and they haven’t shown the ability (or perhaps willingness) to control their games with a power running attack. They are leaned into their star quarterback to control tempo, stretch defenses, and perhaps pass to set up the run. For the most part, it’s working well enough.
Is it sustainable, though?
I don’t know, but I understand why the question is being asked as much as it is. I think the truth is that it is difficult to sustain winning and going far into the playoffs when the quarterback as to always stay the hot hand, and the defense has to depend on coming up with key big play stops when it hemorrhages yards like it has been doing. That is not an ideal formula, but if you have an all-universe talent at quarterback, and a seemingly opportunistic defense, you stand a reasonable chance to do what is conventionally difficult to achieve. This is the nicest way for me to put it.
So, I say, let’s just ride this thing out. Let’s embrace them for who and what they are.
This team will not remotely resemble anything close to Beastmode and the Legion of Boom. This is Russell Wilson and his Band of Merrie Men, and God bless them for it.
They are not power and dominance, they are speed and skill. Russell is our version of Robin Hood. He’s accompanied by DK Metcalf as Little John, Tyler Lockett as Will Scarlett, and Chris Carson as Alan-a-Dale, and Bobby Wagner being Friar Tuck, KJ Wright as Will Stutely, and lastly, Jamal Adams as Maid Marian (Sorry Jamal, I didn’t know how to cast you in this one. Still trying to get a feel for your talents).
Gone is power and intimidation. In is flashy swashbuckling fun stuff. They might feel overwhelmed by any opponent at times, but you just know that somewhere, someway, somehow, at some point, they will do just enough to win back the day.
My hunch is that they are simply waiting it out for their Richard the Lionheart pass rusher to come in around the trade deadline, but that’s another matter to discuss at another time.
This team needs their Richard the Lionheart pass rusher soon
I will be honest, this team needs to make a move to bring in another proven pass rusher. Benson Mayowa and friends are just doing enough to hold the fort down, but it’s not likely sustainable. Injuries happen and are likely to happen. Seattle needs, more than anything else, another legit edge rusher.
The edition of Damon Snacks Harrison is likely going to help Jarran Reed inside (at the very least help keep him fresher) and I think they have other bodies who can rush from the interior as well. What they need most is another edge rusher, and I believe they know that.
Who that player is a bit hard to pin down. My hunch is that it might be a player on another roster. For one thing, if they wanted to add a free agent like Clay Matthews, they could have done so at any point over the last few weeks. I think they are likely preferring to add a player from another roster who has gone through camp, has been playing, and will be ready to go once his gets here.
The one player that I keep going back to is Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan. He’s 32 years old, in his last year of his contract, Washington isn’t likely going anywhere close to the playoffs this year, and they might as well go with their younger drafted players. It would be a nice gesture to Kerrigan that they trade him to a contender this season, and give him a chance to taste a championship. If Seattle can land him for a mid round pick, it would be a really solid move. He could be a focal rusher again, and younger players like Alton Robinson would benefit greatly learning from him.
I don’t know if he is the specific target but I think this is likely the type of player Seattle wants. This is the type of move I am fully expecting Seattle to try to make. Fingers are crossed that they do.
Is Seattle’s defense as bad as we think?
A lot is being made about Seattle’s defense this year. Beat writers have noted that they are giving up yardage at an historic rate, and it has also been noted that no team has ever won a championship with a defense that has surrenders such yards.
This is not my attempt to put pretty red lipstick on a pig, but I think there are a few things to keep in perspective.
First thing is that while this defense has surrendered up huge yardage, it is actually middle of the pack league wide in points allowed (15th overall). This is what matters most to Pete Carroll, and when you couple that with the amount of turnovers the defense has generated, the head coach is likely pleased with that, as well. Defensively, he mostly wants to take away the ball, and he wants offenses to settle for field goals instead of gaining touchdowns. From this perspective, this is pretty much what his defense has been doing.
Secondly, this defense unit hasn’t been playing together as it has been fully constructed to be. Injuries happen, but we haven’t had the starting secondary playing together much with Jamal Adams out a couple games, and Quinton Dunbar also missing time. Further more, Seattle lost starting SAM linebacker Bruce Irvin early, and then has played largely without rookie first round pick linebacker Jordyn Brooks. Irvin and Brooks both provide a lot of speed and instincts in the front seven and Seattle has had to play without those attributes.
Also, a much as Seattle’s defense has felt incomplete as a unit, young players have stepped up and that is a good thing. Ryan Neal has been a surprising revelation at safety in place of Jamal Adams, and Pete Carroll has stated that he has earned a role with the starters moving forward. It will be interesting to see what that role is.
Also emerging is nickel corner Ugo Amadi, and rookie firth round defensive end Alton Robinson. Both players look like they belong in this league and look like potential starters. Amadi is showing the tackling and play-making instincts that he had at Oregon, and Robinson looks potentially like another Seattle mid round steal from the draft.
While I will circle back to the belief that Seattle needs to add another pass rusher to this side of the ball, I also feel like I have seen enough from players who have been playing to think this can and should be an improved unit by the end of the season. We still haven’t seen Snacks Harrison team up with Jarran Reed at defensive tackle. We haven’t seen Adams on the field with Ryan Neal in a dime defense, and we haven’t gotten enough of Jordyn Brooks playing with KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner.
One proven pass rusher could be enough to make this defense more complete unit. So go get one.
Moving forward through the NFC West
The Seattle Seahawks appear to be playing in the best division in football and they have yet to play against their division opponents. They all look formidable, and they will get the Cardinals this weekend, and the 49ers next. The true test to their season is about to begin.
If Seattle is truly to become a championship level team this year, and if Russell Wilson is truly an MVP candidate, winning against the Cardinals and the 49ers over the next two weeks would be huge to accomplishing both. The Seattle Seahawks have a lot at stake in these early NFC West matches, and I like that.
I like Russell playing with a bit more of an edge and determination in these games. I like Seattle rested coming out of their bye week, and focused on the opportunity to pull further ahead of the pack.
I also think that these opponents are all going to provide tough match ups. The Cardinals look like they have the second most talented quarterback in the division, and a player that will only get better. The 49ers proved recently against the Rams that, despite their rash of injuries, they are still a well coached team that you cannot take lightly, and the Rams look like they might be the most balanced club in the division. If Seattle wins this division, they will have earned it.
When the season started, I projected Seattle likely ending up with an 11-5 record, possibly winning the division, and if all goes well, a 12-4 record. I think this can still be the case. I think once these clubs start playing each other, they are going to beat each other up a bit. I don’t see any NFC West team clearly dominant over the others. In fact, I can see three of the four clubs all making the playoffs. This division is that talented. 11-5 might win it with tie breakers.
This is why I will once again circle back to Seattle needing to add one more pass rusher. This division is far from won, and anything Seattle can to fortify itself better, it should most definitely do.
So, just go get one, John Schneider. Go get one more rusher. Give Russell his Lionheart.