A season ago, the Rams nearly upended the Seahawks in their first of two meetings on Monday Night Football. Fast forward to the present, and we're smarting from a tough loss to the Niners. Oh, how times change.
To get a sense of what the Seahawks have been up to since winning a certain game earlier this calendar year (and I still feel kinda gross about it...), I linked up with Danny Kelly of Field Gulls, SB Nation's community for fans of the Seattle Seahawks.
Let's roll back the clock. Eight and a half months ago, you guys won your first Super Bowl ever. Give me a sense of the overall picture in trying to repeat. How do you guys compare the first third of this season to last year? Any indication that things aren't on the right track?
I think Seahawk fans were barraged with the “it’s really hard to repeat,” “no Super Bowl Champ has even won a Playoff game in a decade” and “everyone will give you their best shot” narratives all offseason but perhaps still weren’t prepared for just how hard it actually is to win back-to-back seasons. Several key players for Seattle’s (their ever important depth) were pillaged in free agency, the Seahawks have thus far had the toughest schedule by traditional stats and by DVOA, and overall, it actually has felt like teams are giving the Hawks their best shot week in and week out. It’s starting to set in for me just how hard it is to win in any NFL season, not to mention as the defending champs. The Hawks haven’t been immune to growing pains with a few key depth pieces, and injuries have taken a toll the last few weeks.
That said, I think this is a supremely talented team on paper and they still have a great shot at doing what no one’s done in a decade. Right now, though, they need to get some of their swagger back and get back to the identity that helped make them Super Bowl Champs, namely as a smash mouth run team with a turnover-creating defense. The run game has been efficient but many of their yards have come from Russell Wilson on keepers and bootlegs, and thus far the defense is failing to create turnovers or sack the quarterback. The pieces are still there in Seattle, but right now they’re not all turnt up to 11. I suppose that’s okay for now, but the hope is that they’ll hit their stride as the year goes on while managing to qualify for the playoffs.
Any concerns that the passing offense isn't doing enough to support the run game? What is "enough" from a passing standpoint?
The main concern right now is that Seattle’s changed the identity of their pass game from an explosive, downfield style last year to a more finesse, college spread style this year, and it centers around how they use Percy Harvin. To say it’s been ineffective isn’t necessarily fair, because had Percy’s two touchdowns have counted vs. Washington (two were pretty ticky-tack or questionable calls, and he had a third which was called back because of a clear penalty), we might be having a different discussion. But, nonetheless, Seattle seems to be passing it deep much less and relying on some of the horizontal and behind-the-LOS stuff more often. This irks and concerns people.
Overall, I think the Seahawks could improve in that area and execution is a big key. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Drops, protection issues, inaccurate passes, you name it. Last week against the Cowboys, Seattle took four or five shots down the field and the Seahawk receivers could only reel in one o them— they misses would have been highly difficult catches and were not necessarily drops, but those types of big time plays aren’t happening frequently enough at this point. I would expect Seattle to take a few shots this week to try and get their mojo back in that area.
I asked this to Fooch about the Niners last week, so now I'm throwing this one at you. How long can the defense last? Even from a contractual standpoint, some guys are going to test the free market. Is that the only thing that's going to see this D come back to Earth?
It’s really hard to say, honestly (sorry, cop out). Seattle’s defense worked so in concert last year with the excellent coverage in the secondary perfectly meshing with the great range of the linebackers and great pressure from the defensive line. It’s really tough to say how effective a unit as a whole can be after losing a key player or two, but in general Pete Carroll and his staff have done a nice job of coaching up their players to run the scheme. The “next man up” mantra has proven to be pretty effective thus far.
That said, while Seattle has its key “stars” mostly locked up, there will be some big time players to sign in the coming year(s) including Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Cliff Avril. I believe there’s room for the Hawks to keep much of the nucleus together, but they will also obviously have to keep hitting on players in the Draft to maintain a top-tier defense.
The only rookie I've seen for you guys is Justin Britt. What new players are making an impact in 2014, rookies or otherwise?
Britt is the main guy that’s seen playing time as the starter at right tackle, and he’s played well for the most part, considering he’s a rookie. DT/DE Cassius Marsh had played a role as a rotational player not the Seahawks’ defensive line but it was just announced today that he broke his foot in practice and will be out 4-5 weeks. WR Paul Richardson has logged a few snaps here and there. With a good chunk of Seattle’s key roles already in the hands of veterans, Seattle’s rookie class has mostly been quiet.
What might Rams fans not know about the 2014 Seahawks? How are you guys markedly different than year, or is this a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?
Seattle’s more or less the same team, with the same players mostly and similar schemes, with the exception being that Percy Harvin is now a big factor in the offense. He’s currently listed as questionable for this weekend’s game, so he might not be something the Rams have to worry about, but his ability to hit a home run from anywhere on the field is something that’s always in the defense’s minds. Seattle’s been using him on the edges as a threat on bubble screens and end arounds or fly sweeps, and this helps soften up the middle for the run game. On defense, it’s a lot of the same. Kevin Williams is the new guy to watch, as he’s replaced Red Bryant and recently been playing at the end (5-technique) in base downs.
Bonus: What's your prediction as to the final score?
I’m going to say 21-16 Hawks.
Thanks to Danny for the time.