Written by Julian Rogers
Bad news, Bears. The Seattle Seahawks have screwed up the first two weeks of the 2015 NFL season. They know it. And now they’re going to fix it. Just in time for your visit.
Somehow, tight end Jimmy Graham got shipped off to the island of misfit toys. Russell Wilson’s new difference-maker was supposed to be just that as the Seahawks endeavored to raise their passing efficiency to new heights. They certainly gave up a lot to import the guy they expected to come in and lead the receiving corps.
So why aren’t they using him? If there were one player apart from Marshawn Lynch the Seahawks should be force-feeding, it’s Graham. To date, Graham has received a mere 10 targets, with only seven catches and one touchdown. Most of those came in week one against the St. Louis Rams. He was held to one catch for 11 yards in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Making matters worse, Graham is being aligned as the tight end more than he is accustomed. It is no secret that blocking is a weakness in his game. Yet in critical third-down situations, Wilson’s new toy is tasked with blocking or at least chipping edge rushers, which means he’s either not an option at all in the passing game, or at the most, a second or third option.
This isn’t the Graham express. The lack of targets not only hurts the passing game, it also isn’t helping the running game. He may be a willing blocker, but he is not a good one. Regardless, his presence was supposed to create matchup problems for defenses that would loosen up coverage for the other Seahawks receivers and running lanes for Lynch. Frankly, there is no excuse for this circumstance to not exist. It’s why Max Unger was traded.
The early season stats for Lynch are alarmingly low. One of the reasons is obvious: an offensive line in transition. Another possible reason is more ominous.
First, the offensive line is a shadow of what it was just one year ago. Running lanes are as common as diamonds, only more difficult to unearth. The final play of the Seahawks / Rams game, which saw Lynch’s feet immobilized in quicksand as tackle Garry Gilliam and guardJ.R. Sweezy issued invitations to Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald to join them in the backfield may be the early season’s turning point. Least Mode lost a yard on fourth down. The game was similarly lost.
Is it all on offensive line problems and play design? Perhaps not. The ominous question: Has 29-year-old Lynch hit the inevitable wall? One day, the wall will be struck by No. 24. Are we seeing it now? True, Lynch has managed to put together a few Beast Mode runs two games in, but it bears watching.
The numbers tell a new and harsh story: 114 rushing yards in two games; 3.5 yards per carry. This scant production is easily the worst average of his career and well below his career average of 4.3. He may very well produce a breakout game against the Chicago Bears. If Lynch does not erupt against the leaky Bears defense (32nd ranked in terms of points allowed), then the Beast Mode era may be at its end.
Going Kam-less for summer
The first day of fall brought the return of Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks fold. Finally, a win for the blue birds.
Speaking of wins, each of these three problems currently plaguing the Seahawks were fatal to their chances at getting a win in both of their games. Pick any one, return it to its previous state, and we may very well be talking about an undefeated Seahawks team at this point. The chief difference among these three issues is that one has just now been fixed — Kam is back. The other two remain major impediments to the Seahawks’ plans to return to the Super Bowl.
Is it unfair to place this much emphasis on the return of Chancellor? I don’t think so. Chancellor’s absence may very well have cost the Seahawks two early season victories. But the defense’s newfound generosity (30.5 points allowed per game) cannot be pinned entirely on the Kam hole.
Even without Chancellor, defensive coordinator Kris Richard should be hard at work cooking up some new tricks for Sunday. Richard’s week three adjustments will likely begin with a helping of home cooking and end with playing a not-very-good team. He gets a dose of both this Sunday. He may also want to convince his defense that it’s December already, when they tend to play their best.
The home factor is the best news for the winless blue birds. Seattle is a different animal at home, to the tune of about three points per game. All of their home games are still ahead of them, including two winless teams in succession. This is get-well time for the Seahawks.
Here is how home field favors the Seahawks in terms of scoring and points allowed. It favors the Seahawks’ offense by exactly three points per game and a little less than that for the defense. In 2014, the Seahawks allowed an average of 14.12 points per game at home and allowed 16.25 points per game on the road. This differential, which is less than a field goal, helps but doesn’t tilt the field that much. But the winless will take any edge they can glean.
What the Seahawks really excel at is late-season defense. In their last six games of 2014, evenly split among three home and away games, they allowed an average of 6.5 points per game. You cannot lose allowing less than a touchdown. The 2015 Seahawks (or pretty much anyone) cannot win allowing 30.5 points per game.
The Seahawks will be on a “get well” trajectory if they can right these three wrongs. Therace to a playoff spot is far from over. They already got Kam back. Will the 12s get what they expect when the Seahawks kick off against the Bears at 1:25 p.m. Pacific at CenturyLink?