The Seattle Seahawks were in need of some good news - any good news, really - to help extinguish the stench from last week’s dreadful offensive performance, and the subsequent loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
On Wednesday, they got it.
In his weekly press conference with the media, head coach Pete Carroll – who, quite frankly, needed something to smile about as well – doled out good news left and right.
Russell Wilson? He’s looking better and ahead of schedule. Tyler Lockett, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise? All could potentially be good to go on Sunday.
But perhaps the biggest development could be the impending debut of Germain Ifedi, the mammoth offensive guard who’s expected to make his NFL debut. Ifedi, out of Texas A&M, was Seattle’s first-round selection in the draft this year. He was brought in to help shore up an offensive line that struggled last year, lost some pieces, and was expected to be in dire straights entering this season.
He hasn’t been anointed the savior, and he shouldn’t be. But infusing talent, no matter how young, is vital at this stage.
Two weeks in, those painful predictions of the offensive line have played out for the world to see. Seattle can’t run the ball (they're 18th in the league at 89.5 yards per game) and they’re not throwing the ball well (21st in the NFL at 239.5 passing yards per game).
Not all of the offensive woes can be placed on the line; not all can be placed on Wilson’s ankle, either. But the two combined factors have limited Seattle to just 7.5 points per game, a 1-1 record, and raised serious questions about the offense’s ability to help the defense at all this season.
The good news? As anemic as the Seahawks have been on offense, San Francisco, Seattle’s next opponent, has been slightly worse. Under first-year coach Chip Kelly – who knows a thing or two about offense, if you recall – the 49ers are 28th in the league in passing yards (203.5).
After a wild offseason, followed by a tumultuous preseason, sidetracked by the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga, the 49ers have settled on Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, hamstringing a unit that, seemingly, could benefit from the playmaking ability Kaepernick would provide.
CSN Bay Area is reporting that Kaepernick is still regaining strength after an offseason in which he couldn’t lift weights. According to the report, Kelly said that at some point this season Kaepernick could be an option.
It won’t be against Seattle, although it may not matter with the way the Seahawks’ defense is playing. Aided by two games against the Dolphins and Rams, Seattle’s defense is first the NFL – by 25 yards – allowing just 248 yards per game and just 9.5 points per game.
And yet, according to multiple players, they haven’t played close to their best ball.
If last week’s showdown with Los Angeles was about defense, this week is looking to follow suit. Seattle (27th) and San Francisco (28th overall) both appear woeful offensively. But Seattle’s defense is masking any and all problems at this point.
With the health problems seemingly on the mend, the Seahawks’ offense has to be nearing a turning point. There’s no better time to start that now.
Seattle 17, San Francisco 9
Last week, I told you to take the safe road, pick the Seahawks defense for your fantasy team, and get out of dodge. That’s the safe bet this week – and for the whole season, probably – but I can’t take the easy road again.
So, I’m going to go out on a huge ledge: Jimmy Graham.
Since Graham arrived at the beginning of last season, he’s been a square-peg-in-a-round-hole. Nothing about Graham’s style of play has fit in with what the Seahawks expect. They want him to block; he can’t do it. He wants to hug the seams; they want him to be complex. But last week, in Seattle’s 9-3 loss, we may have begun to see a glimpse of the Graham everyone expected. He only had 3 catches for 42 yards, but there seemed to be a conscious effort to get him the ball. And it makes perfect sense: you have an offensive line that doesn’t give you any time, and a quarterback who’s inured and can’t move.
The natural outlet? Graham. It’s a risk, but it may pay off.