Wizards

Seattle's limited passing game tough to judge

Seattle's limited passing game tough to judge

RENTON, Wash. (AP) For all the scrutiny that rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has received as the Seattle Seahawks' starting quarterback, the limited number of times he's thrown has made it difficult to fully assess how the first seven weeks of his career have gone.

Ultimately, Seattle is 4-3 heading into Sunday's game at Detroit and that's the most important number for the Seahawks. Most of Wilson's low passing numbers are by design, with the Seahawks asking Marshawn Lynch to carry the load of Seattle's offense and spotting Wilson's throws when needed.

Lynch leads the NFC and is second in the NFL in rushing attempts with 147 through seven weeks, and is on pace for 336 this season, which would easily be the most of his career. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the fewest pass attempts of any team in the NFL and are on pace for the least amount of passes thrown in franchise history since 1977, when Seattle played just 14 games.

The Seahawks believe this can be a successful offensive formula, even though it's not the most exciting offense at times.

``There's a lot of good things that happen when Marshawn has the ball. He gets us going offensively because of how strong he is, how angry he runs. It brings some fire to our offense and gets us going,'' Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ``As long as you're moving the chains and getting first downs, that's good. But as you know, it's hard in this league to get 10-15 play drives and finish those drives with scores because at some point you're not going to be make it all the way. ... You've got to have those explosive plays.''

The concerns about Seattle's passing game come on the heels of Wilson's worst performance yet. He completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards and an interception in the Seahawks' 13-6 loss at San Francisco last Thursday. Seattle's hope was that Wilson's dynamic fourth quarter a week earlier that led to a 24-23 comeback win over New England would carry over.

Instead, the loss to the 49ers only raised concerns about just how one dimensional the Seahawks offense is away from home. In his four road games this season, Wilson has thrown seven interceptions and just two touchdowns, averaging 164 yards passing and a QB rating of 55.7. In his three home games, Wilson's QB rating is nearly 117, he's averaging nearly 200 yards per game passing and he's thrown six touchdowns with no interceptions.

``He's obviously very comfortable at home, and we have played better at home than we did on the road. We just have to get through that,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

Seattle is averaging 25 pass attempts per game and is on pace for 400 pass attempts this year. In the last 12 seasons, only five teams have attempted fewer than 400 passes in a season: Atlanta in 2004, Pittsburgh in 2004 and 2005, San Francisco in 2005 and the 2009 New York Jets. Not surprisingly, in three of those circumstances the teams were starting rookie quarterbacks - Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez.

Perhaps surprisingly, the combined record of those five teams was 50-30 with three of those teams winning at least 11 games.

In no way is that an indication of how the Seahawks' season will go. But it's recent historical proof that playing with such a limited passing game can still be successful.

Seattle also has struggled passing in the middle quarters after finding success early in the game. The first quarter, where the first 15 plays are usually scripted, has yielded scores on Seattle's opening drive in the last three games. But that success has fallen off significantly in the middle two quarters, especially in the third quarter. Seattle has thrown for just 198 yards and a passer rating of 59.9 in the third quarter this season, before seeing an uptick in the fourth.

``I don't think we need to go searching for anything,'' Wilson said. ``I think we have all of the talent, all of the right plays and the guys; we just need to make the plays at certain times.''

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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