The Seahawks have reached the bye week, which means you get a one-week break of football-induced cardiac arrest. Seattle is 5-0 after a thrilling, largely inexplicable win against the Vikings on “Sunday Night Football.”
This week’s mailbag focuses on how Seattle got to this point as well as why there’s reason to believe the best is yet to come for the Seahawks. Thanks, as always, to those who asked questions.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding reasons for optimism regarding the Seahawks defense rather than going the doom and gloom route. That’s especially true when there are a few silver linings readily available.
Let’s start with the pass rush (I covered this in “Overreaction Monday” as well). Despite having just nine sacks through five games, there are other metrics that indicate Seattle’s pass rush has been better than that sack count. Per Pro Football Reference, the Seahawks lead the NFL with 20 quarterback knockdowns and rank fifth with 46 pressures. The sacks should start coming more frequently, whether it’s due to finishing plays, Jamal Adams’ return or merely positive regression.
The secondary, in my opinion, is the far greater concern. The Seahawks are on pace to give up nearly 7,500 total yards this season, which would be the most in NFL history. That’s mostly because Seattle’s pass defense has been abhorrent. I don’t have a stat for you to make you feel better about the suboptimal play other than the notion that it’s fair to expect good players to play better. Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin are all proven players. All three have been underwhelming to a degree.
I think part of the issue are the growing pains that come with incorporating a guy like Adams. He’s a special player, no doubt, but Seattle has never had a chess piece quite like him on defense. He blitzes more than any safety the Seahawks have had in the past which, while exciting because he’s a talented pass rusher, leaves holes in the secondary. Seattle hasn’t done a good enough job of filling those gaps when the blitz doesn’t get home. That should tighten up as the season goes along.
Beyond that, all three of the aforementioned defensive backs simply need to win more 1-on-1 matchups. Seattle has done a better job limiting explosive pass plays allowed the last two weeks. That was step one. But there’s still a long way to go for that group as a whole.
Pete Carroll made it very clear that players need to stay laser focused on following the team-issued COVID-19 protocols. Players won’t be allowed to leave the area and daily testing will still be taking place. But with more free time on their hands, it is possible that boredom leads to a few poor decisions. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen and that the Seahawks can continue their positive momentum they’ve built when it comes to dealing with the virus. I can promise you that Carroll will be anxious about this topic the entire week.
Ethan Pocic has been an incredible story this season. Finally healthy, Pocic has shed his bust label as an underwhelming second-round pick in 2017. He’s been a huge reason why the Seahawks offensive line has far exceeded expectations.
From a Pro Football Focus standpoint, Pocic has a 69.1 overall grade on the season. His best single game grade was 74.5 in Week 4 against the Dolphins. However, he is enjoying a three-game stretch with a pass blocking grade of at least 81.9.
By comparison, Justin Britt had a 62.0 grade in eight games last season.
Pocic has been an absolute revelation for the Seahawks, and he could be their long-term answer at center.
The Seahawks haven’t officially protected Damon Harrison on the practice squad, but they might at some point this week. Regardless, Harrison seems set to play this thing out with Seattle and see how it goes. The Buccaneers inquired about Harrison last week, and he opted to stay with the Seahawks. He is clearly sold on their vision for him. It doesn’t hurt that Seattle is 5-0, either.
I think it’s possible that Dan Quinn makes a return to the Seahawks, but I’d be shocked if it happened this season. Every indication is that players love Ken Norton Jr., and it would be surprising to see Seattle mix things up to that degree midseason. Anything is possible, I suppose, but don’t get your hopes up that Quinn will be coming to save the day in 2020.
Penny Hart will be the first guy to go. After that it becomes an interesting discussion. David Moore isn’t going anywhere, and Seattle isn’t likely to subject Freddie Swain to waivers. That means a second cut would have to come at another position. Luke Willson is one name that would make sense.
But that’s a tomorrow problem for the Seahawks. Or a next week problem. Or a next month problem. Or a never problem depending on if and when Josh Gordon gets reinstated. Phillip Dorsett should be ready to make his Seahawks debut in Week 7.
The Seahawks have never had a QB/WR combo like Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf. Wilson is far and away the franchise’s best quarterback of all-time and Metcalf is a physical specimen unlike any of his predecessors. What we’re witnessing is truly special in regard to the history of the Seahawks.
It’s fair to bemoan the Seahawks struggles defensively. However, it’s important to keep a wholistic view of the league when evaluating Seattle’s defense. The reality is that there aren’t many good defenses in the NFL. In fact, most have been pretty terrible.
PFF ranks Seattle’s defense tied for sixth in the league (66.0). Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks 18th in DVOA. So while it’s been ugly from a yards allowed standpoint, Seattle still ranks 20th in points allowed and second in takeaways.
Is improvement necessary? Absolutely. But I don’t think the defense is worth panicking over just yet.
This is a fun and fair question. My roommate made this point to me after the Vikings game. He said that Seahawks games are like superhero movies for Seattle fans. No matter how bleak things get, you still have a faith that Russell Wilson and Co. are going to come through, just like the good guys always winning in Marvel movies. You end up thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait to see how they figure out how to win this game.” Far more times than not, Seattle does come through. The Vikings game in Week 5 was a perfect example.
Conversely, it’s understandable why hating the Seahawks is so frustrating. Because you’re sitting at home thinking, “There’s no way Seattle can win this game. The Vikings need three inches, and they’ve been running the ball down the Seahawks throats all game long.” And you’re right! It’s inexplicable how Seattle always comes through. The Seahawks had no business stopping Alexander Mattison on that fourth down play, just as they had no business stopping Cam Newton on the goal line in Week 2. Seattle had 4th-and-10 and Wilson’s prayer to DK Metcalf was somehow answered for a 39-yard gain.
This is, and has been, a ridiculously weird team. Seahawks fans understand just how good they have it while 49ers fans, like yourself, are left wondering when the magic will run dry.