Well, here we go. Week 15 will give the Los Angeles Rams a primetime platform in front of the nation just days after firing Former Head Coach Jeff Fisher as they hit the road to take on the division rival Seattle Seahawks.
To get a sense of this year’s Seahawks and what they’ve been up to since the Rams’ 9-3 win over them in Week 2, I linked up with Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls, the SB Nation community for Seattle Seahawks fans.
The game in Green Bay obviously didn't go well, but you guys pretty much have the NFC West locked up nonetheless. How are things looking for you guys overall as you head into the playoff preparatory stage?
Plenty of fans are concerned, and I'd be lying if I said that my confidence levels weren't lower this season than they had been in the previous three, but even if you go back to 2012, the team that had a rookie quarterback, was unproven, untested, inexperienced, and just 6-5 after 11 games, that team finished :31 seconds shy of making the NFC Championship game and they were a wild card that had to go on the road twice. This team is 8-4-1. They can clinch the NFC West tonight. They have the best odds in the NFC of getting the two seed, meaning they'd be hosting a team in the divisional round, not going on the road in the wild card round. It's a significant difference. So if Seattle wins on Thursday -- and make no mistake that a loss would be a huge upset, even if it's quite foreseeable -- then I believe things are looking good for the playoffs. They have to host Arizona and go to San Francisco. The Seahawks are mostly healthy with the exception of Earl Thomas. They can get CJ Prosise back for the postseason.
I'm more concerned than I was 2013-2015, but still less concerned for Seattle than I would be of all but a few other teams.
How has your rookie class looked? I know Prosise is out injured, but has he been the star or has Germain Ifedi led the group?
Jarran Reed is the star of the rookie class. Ifedi is okay. George Fant is the starting left tackle and he's quite inconsistent, not surprising for an undrafted free agent who has almost no football experience. Prosise looked awesome but he needs to stay on the field for it to matter. Tanner McEvoy is a very interesting receiver, but super raw.
What's the real difference between the 2016 Seattle Seahawks and previous seasons? Is the offensive struggle defining this year's Seahawks compared to recent years?
Russell Wilson's health threw off his game and the offense for the first half of the season and then I think over the last few weeks, something (perhaps those health issues from earlier in the year) shook him. He was just awful vs the Packers. They had a bad offensive line last year, so that can't be all of it. I think also the health of Thomas Rawls, because he's a top-five running back in my opinion but just returned four weeks ago. He was incredible last season. The injury to Earl Thomas can't be dismissed and definitely not the four games missed by Kam Chancellor.
All in all, if Wilson is healthy and confident, Rawls is healthy, I don't think there will be much of a difference from 2015 to the rest of this season. Seattle is still talented, but Wilson needs to make better decisions and go back to the incredible accuracy he had pre-Green Bay. I'm not worried about the defense, their backs were against the wall vs the Packers because of six turnovers. They do need to get back to having a great pass rush though, for some reason it's been lacking since the return of Michael Bennett.
We're seeing serious cracks in the on-field product for the first time pretty much since yall drafted Russell Wilson. Are you concerned that this is indicative of a deepening problem or are you confident that the organization can get the growing problems corrected?
I'm concerned about the drafting in the last four years as outlined previously. I'm concerned that they'll turn into the Pittsburgh Steelers or Packers; teams with great quarterbacks who are actually quite soft around the edges and consistently knocked out of the playoffs and living off of previous Super Bowl championships.
That being said, if you have a franchise quarterback of his caliber plus defensive pieces like Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Thomas, Chancellor, KJ Wright, Cliff Avril, Bennett, Frank Clark, Reed, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Rawls, Ifedi, Prosise, Tyler Lockett -- so on. It's not hard to imagine Seattle competing for the Super Bowl this season and definitely next season. They need to get back to finding those value gems like they did in UDFA with Baldwin, or late rounds like Sherman, Chancellor, and cheap free agents like Bennett, Avril, Ahtyba Rubin ... I have reason to believe they'll be fine because of the last six years but sure, reasons to be concerned because of their five atrocious offensive performances this year, including against the Rams.
What are shaping up to be the major roster needs heading into the offseason? How is the 2017 NFL Draft shaping up for yall's depth chart?
I think Justin Britt is the center, and Germain Ifedi will be somewhere on the offensive line, and Mark Glowinski is PROBABLY the left guard but I am not 100% on that -- but there's competition everywhere on the offensive line, almost. I think they need to add a tackle and our draft guy Rob Staton really likes Garrett Bolles of Utah. They could also go guard and move Ifedi to tackle. So guard and tackle, definitely.
Starting CB Deshawn Shead is a RFA, while nickel corner Jeremy Lane is struggling in the first season of a new deal, so I think they need to add more depth at corner, both inside and outside. They really like UDFA DeAndre Elliott out of Colorado State though.
Strongside linebacker (where Bruce Irvin used to play) is a need, plus pass rushing depth, and running back depth since they've had 12 running backs this season. Yes, 12. The starter is Rawls but they really struggled without him. Prosise will be the third down back. But Alex Collins hasn't played well and the others are mostly untested.
But biggest of all is probably a pass-rushing defensive tackle. That's something they had when they went to the Super Bowl in 2013, 2014, but lack in the last two seasons. A pass rusher in the middle of the defensive line is like the last missing piece to really take the defense to the next level. Overall, my order of needs might go: OT, DT (pass rush), OLB, RB, CB, WR.
Thanks to the Artful Dodger for the time.