Blogging The Boys: The Seahawks are giving up sacks at a rapid rate. What’s going on along the offensive line and are they the biggest problem?
Field Gulls: It’s a combination of things, as abnormally-high statistics tend to be fueled by. I don’t have much to say about their individual performances, but Duane Brown still looks like the best player in the unit and maybe none of the other four have played like starters. The person getting the brunt of that criticism is right tackle Germain Ifedi, who has been beaten consistently for sacks, hurries, and hits while still finding time to get penalties called on him. But Ifedi isn’t alone, in that J.R. Sweezy and Ethan Pocic (the guards) also haven’t played that well. Center Justin Britt is now dealing with a shoulder injury that could force backup Joey Hunt into his first start. The other two pieces of that combination of things is Russell Wilson’s propensity to create sack drama by giving up on a pass too soon and then spinning around into the arms of a pass rusher and the fact that they’ve faced Von Miller and Khalil Mack to open the year. Next up are DeMarcus Lawrence, Chandler Jones, and Aaron Donald. It’s not getting any easier for Ifedi and company so I don’t see why the results are going to be much better, though Pete Carroll is still claiming that pass protection is better than it was a year ago.
The run blocking has also been awful.
BTB: Is the lack of a running game solely on the offensive line? Or are there other factors like the stable of running backs, the offensive play-caller, playing from behind? What’s the mix of issues there?
FG: As mentioned, the run blocking has been bad. Maybe that’s why they haven’t run nearly as much as you’d expect or as much as they promised would happen when they did all these offseason things like firing Tom Cable as offensive line coach, firing offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, signing guard D.J. Fluker, and drafting running back Rashaad Penny in the first round. Chris Carson seems to have played well but he’s gotten only 13 carries. Penny’s gotten 17, with most of his play time coming in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to the Bears; why didn’t they run the ball in the second and third quarters of the game? Why did they keep Carson on the bench in the second half? Who will be the lead back this week? You ask me these questions about the running game, but I have even more for Carroll as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a mystery.
BTB: The Legion of Boom is no more, but you still have Earl Thomas back there (dangit!). Talk about the secondary and the replacements back there.
FG: There’s some real bright spots in the secondary. Seattle re-signed safety Bradley McDougald to a moderate three-year contract and he’s played really well, recording two interceptions in Week 1 and tipping a pick to Shaquill Griffin in Week 2. He may not set the tone like Kam Chancellor did but he’s a quality starter who could step in at free safety also if needed and I think some teams really missed out on grabbing him when he was available. Earl Thomas is playing like Earl Thomas at free safety, making it harder for the team to imagine letting him walk and starting a backup like Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill. Shaquill Griffin is a potential superstar in the making at cornerback. He had two picks on Monday night and he’s capable of shutting down or containing high-end receivers. Not bad for the 90th overall pick in 2017. Slot cornerback Justin Coleman hardly played on Monday, signaling a potential change in gameplan by new defensive coordinator Ken Norton as compared to Kris Richard, the fired defensive coordinator now coaching for the Cowboys; Coleman played a lot last year but they used more linebackers/safeties on the field on Monday as compared to a regular nickel defense with Coleman.
The big red flag is the RCB job, which is down to like fourth or fifth on the depth chart. Byron Maxwell got injured. Dontae Johnson got injured. And then rookie Tre Flowers got injured. That meant that Seattle had to start Akeem King against the Bears, and the Seahawks had cut King (then signed to practice squad) less than two weeks earlier. But King seemed to play OK, so hopefully that continues for Seattle. I think the secondary is playing quite well, especially given the circumstances.
BTB: Will K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner return this week? What’s the impact if they do play versus them being out?
FG: Bobby Wagner is expected to play. I can’t speculate too much on Wright, at the time I’m writing this, he’s a maybe.
The defense is designed around the speed and abilities of Wagner, which is what you do when you have one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Wagner and Luke Kuechly stand alone as far as middle linebackers of the era go. That being said, I think backup Austin Calitro played well in place of Wagner on Monday night, but there’s a clear difference of course and the defense was slower because of it. In place of Wright was the recently-signed Mychal Kendricks, who is still cleared to play despite his pending sentencing for insider trading. He had a sack and seemed to play OK in his first game with the Seahawks, but he’s also a step below K.J. Wright. Kendricks did play better than rookie Shaquem Griffin, who started Week 1 and played well enough for the team to sign a linebacker facing years in prison.
The Cowboys might have an easier time passing to backs and tight ends and into the flats if Wright is out, but it’s not nearly as bad as the impact of a missing Bobby Wagner. Not that losing Wright isn’t impactful, because it will be.
BTB: Were you expecting more out of the Seahawks this year? How disappointing has this start been, and if they go 0-3, what happens next for the organization?
FG: Yeah, I suppose I was expecting more after two games. The 0-2 record isn’t really the issue though. They started with two road games. They were decimated by injuries in Week 2. They really got boned on some calls by the refs in Week 1 and while your readers would have no way of knowing this, I hate it when people blame the refs; but it was that egregious. The difference between 0-2 and 2-0 is really as small as a little bit of luck. But I think 2-0 would be more deceiving than 0-2 is.
Brian Schottenheimer’s playcalling is mindbogglingly bad. At least from where the fans are standing. And the results are not making any sort of case for him. He does not seem to know the first thing about Russell Wilson and I think against Chicago I witnessed the worst start of Wilson’s career. He may have had some uglier ones in the past, but he’s a seventh year QB now who just threw the second pick-six of his career and it was arguably the worst throw he’s ever had. They claimed all this stuff in the offseason about improving the running game and getting back to rushing it, then they completely abandon the run and Chris Carson, the guy they claimed had won the starting running back gig. And defensively we knew the pass rush could be a liability, but it seems like Seattle could end up with the worst pass rush in the NFL. If you can’t protect the QB and you can’t disrupt the opposing team’s QB, you can’t win. I thought the Seahawks would be no worse than 8-8 because they had Wilson and Wagner and Earl and Frank Clark and Doug Baldwin but Schotty has seemingly ruined Wilson (for now), Wagner and Baldwin is hurt, Clark is not a consistent threat and Earl is -- well, Earl seems fine but he did miss ten snaps in the first game that ended up giving Case Keenum just enough firepower in those snaps to help the Broncos take the lead.
Yeah, I thought they’d be better. I still think there’s time to turn it around but they definitely need to avoid 0-3 if that turnaround will include the playoffs. With the Cardinals coming up in Week 4, Seattle has a chance to get to 2-2. If they lose to the Cowboys at home, then I’m sure people start asking questions about the direction of the organization under Carroll.
Thanks for the knowledge, Field Gulls.