The Los Angeles Rams are hosting the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10 in a NFC West rivalry matchup that, more than anything for the Rams, offers an opportunity to move on from their first loss of the season last week.
To get a better sense of the Seahawks and how they’re looking since our first matchup a few weeks back, I linked up with Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls, the SB Nation community for Seahawks fans.
So back in Week 5, we started by looking at the offense. Obviously coming off of the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the effect of that isn’t going to help put things in a favorable light, but I’ll ask about it like this: What are the 2018 Seattle Seahawks trying to do on offense and what’s not working? I often said about the Rams offenses under Jeff Fisher that people often confused which kind of bad it was. There’s a “bad” in trying to do something and failing and there’s a “bad” in not actually trying things in the first place. The Fisherball Rams offenses often fell into the latter category. Is this year’s offense the former or the latter?
Pete Carroll wants his offensive identity to focus around the running backs and I’d say when Chris Carson is healthy, it’s working pretty well. Backup Mike Davis is mostly suitable, but certainly a step below Carson. Rashaad Penny might be the most talented of the group but it’s hard to say how ready he is to contribute on a regular basis because he hasn’t played enough to give us an accurate description of his potential future outcomes; typically I’d say it’s just a bad sign that your first round pick isn’t getting on the field much at all, but Carson and Davis are playing so well that I don’t have to question it much. Given that Carson missed a game already and is questionable again, Penny’s presence on the roster is quite welcome and his opportunities will be coming. Anyways that might be answering the first part of your question but apologies if it goes off tangent a bit.
As far as what they’re trying to do that’s not working, I’d say they’re not doing enough to eliminate or drastically reduce Russell Wilson’s bad plays. He holds onto the ball for too long and takes way too many sacks, putting the problems in protection perhaps more on Wilson in 2018 than it is on any issues along the offensive line. He’s also a bit of an over-thrower and seems to overlook a significant number of open targets, but I actually can’t say for sure how atypical his numbers are compared to the average quarterback. The totality of Wilson’s game is still that of a top-six quarterback, in my opinion, but to ultimately reach that top-top tier of QBs, he needs to make better decisions and improve his accuracy AND/OR he needs coaching that gets him to that point and puts him in the best position to succeed. We see this happen for long stretches at times, whether that’s in six years with Darrell Bevell or the previous six games with Brian Schottenheimer, but it’s not consistent and he can be maddeningly manic at times, whether it’s because he scrambles for a 12-yard loss on a sack instead of throwing it away, or forcing it to one player when a different player was wide open.
To change that part of Wilson’s game, they’d need to change the playbook a little bit. I’m not enough of an Xs and Os guy to really expand my opinion beyond that, but I’d say that I’d love to know what Sean McVay would do if he had Seattle’s offense. For that reason, I’d say it’s probably more of the latter: they are a predictable offense so I’d have to argue that they aren’t trying things that may take them to that next level.
We talked about the end of the Legion of Boom, but it appears the transition into a post-LOB defense has gone pretty well overall. Is this defense good enough (or improving enough) that it might be enough to carry you guys into the playoffs despite the offensive struggles?
Well, here’s definitely where I lose some of your readers for being “a cocky Sea-loser” who doesn’t have an objective view of the team he writes about, because I wouldn’t agree that the Seahawks offense is struggling. Since Week 3, they are 3rd in passer rating and second in rushing yards despite playing one less game than the first-place Rams during that time. They made poor coaching decisions and faced tough road defenses in Weeks 1-2, but have already improved immensely. That being said, of course they are coming off of a bad game against a good defense and going to play the Rams on the road on Sunday, it could be repeat, if not worse. I’m not saying that Seattle is anywhere near the level of the Rams, Chiefs, or Saints, but if anything I think it’s probably that Russell Wilson needs to start carrying the defense a bit more.
The Seahawks defense has played well above expectations due to their offseason changes, in large part thanks to the advanced play of Bradley McDougald, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, and Tre Flowers; those are some guys maybe playing better than many expected headed into the season. Maybe with the exception of Clark, who I named as the guy who most needed to become a star on defense in order for Seattle to remain a top-ranked unit, likely shifting the focus from the secondary to the front-four, but even he’s on pace to do a little bit more than the expectation. They also still have Bobby Wagner -- having another Defensive Player of the Year award type season that he’ll understandably lose to Aaron Donald -- and K.J. Wright just returned from injury. Shaquill Griffin, Barkevious Mingo, Tedric Thompson, Shamar Stephen, Justin Coleman, and Quinton Jefferson round out most of the other regulars and I’ll give them a one to five-word review in that order: Good, Good against the pass, Concerning to see start, Underrated but limited, Just very solid, Nice but not a starter.
To answer the heart of your question: Yes, I think Seattle has enough to make the playoffs, not that they necessarily will.
What are the biggest roster needs?
They need to add a premier edge player, like most any team. If they extend Clark long term, as I expect them to, then they need to find the Everson Griffen to his Danielle Hunter. They drafted Rasheem Green in the third round this year out of USC, a very young player with nice long-term potential, but A) he’s flashed rare skills but not given any reason to believe yet that he’ll ever reach his ceiling and B) he might be an inside player anyway. There really isn’t another player on the roster you’d have expectations of being a starting defensive end in this defense long-term, including Jefferson. They used to have Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and in 2013 when they won the Super Bowl they had those two guys plus Chris Clemons, so they’re two pass rushers short of a trio right now. The good news is that Reed is on pace for 10 sacks from the inside, so does it really matter where your sacks come from, but yes I think they’d like to two edge rushers in 2019 like they once did with Bennett and Avril within days of each other. A lot of people talk about Jadeveon Clowney, but I’m sure that’s happening in most cities right now. I would be surprised if the Seahawks are picking in the top-10 next year so finding that elite edge playing prospect may not be that easy even in a draft class loaded with them. Then again, maybe they will -- if the Seahawks are picking in the top-10 or 15, pass rusher is what I expect them to look for, although they’ll almost certainly trade down again.
They need Earl Thomas back, does that count? Thompson is fine and the defense has held up but it’s just a different beast with Thomas in the backfield. If ET really doesn’t return next season, they might need a new free safety.
Offensively, I’m not really sure. It’s a season of optimism strangely: you wouldn’t change Wilson, Carson, Duane Brown, D.J. Fluker, Justin Britt, or Doug Baldwin, that’s for sure. J.R. Sweezy and Germain Ifedi have also played quite well on the offensive line, so it’s not a major concern. Tyler Lockett has done his job quite well even if he’s not ever going to be DeSean Jackson or Antonio Brown. David Moore is a young receiver who has really taken off in the last month, so my answer there is that I’d like to see what Moore can do in the long run. And tight end, I have little complaints about it, even if it’s not a strength. Ed Dickson just returned from NFI and he’s an excellent blocker with a little bit of pass-catching ability, which is a similar story for Nick Vannett at that position. So I could say that they “need” a better pass-catching option at tight end, like who wouldn’t want Travis Kelce, but it’s not something that I think about nor did it help when Jimmy Graham was in Seattle anyway. In hindsight, his acquisition made no sense. Maybe what they need is a new philosophy then, I don’t know, but I’m not in a rush to change the personnel.
Yalls schedule looks pretty damn tough from here on out. Is the Green Bay game next week a must-win to get into the playoffs?
I assume this question about Green Bay requires me to put an “L” on the calendar for the Rams game already? Because at the end of the day, maybe the question could be: Can the Seahawks rebound from 5-5? Obviously I think that it’ll be hard for them to return from 4-6, so in that case I’d say “Yeah, it’d be really hard to return from that.” Though not impossible; Seattle was 4-5 in 2015 and roared into the playoffs, finishing first in DVOA that season. Do I see a repeat of that kind of finish? No, that would be equally as insane as the first time it happened. I have not yet given up hope that the Seahawks will beat the Rams, so I’m not exactly sure how to answer the question of the must-win nature of the game against the Packers.
I think if the Seahawks are 6-5, they’ll have a really good shot at the playoffs. They have five December games, four of which are at home, two of which are against the 49ers, one of which is against the Cardinals, plus home games against the Vikings and Chiefs, with K.C. potentially looking at resting starters if they’ve locked into a certain playoff seed by Week 16. If they’re 6-5, maybe they can finish 10-6, which gets you into the playoffs a lot of the times it happens. It’s Rams-Packers-Panthers, then we’ll see. If they’re 4-7, it’s not looking good. If it’s 5-6, it’s not impossible. If It’s 6-5, then they’re in a good position and coming off of some confidence-boosting wins. If you think it’s hard for the Seahawks to turn around from the Rams game and have a Thursday home game against the Packers, then how tough is it for Green Bay to play the Dolphins (not tough) and then fly to Seattle for a primetime game on three days rest? I’m hopeful but realistic that this three-game stretch could define Seattle’s season as a lost one.
I asked if it was the end of the Pete Carroll era, and your answer was no. If you had put it on a scale of 1 to 10 (The Carrollometer? The Pete-O-Meter? PC Matic?), what was it back after Week 4 and what is it now?
Isn’t this what FanPulse is for, Joe?
I get the feeling from these questions that outside perception of the Seahawks is still somehow as dire today as it was in March when they started shedding big name players after missing the playoffs. I don’t see it that way. The loss to the Chargers was not a big deal to me. I’m still looking at the whole picture and thinking that Seattle has earned every single ounce of their 4-4 record. What does that make them? A .500 team with some really talented players and when I look at it, I see a team that is going to be a Super Bowl sleeper in 2019. They can return next season with Wilson, Wagner, Brown, Baldwin, Reed, Clark, Carson, McDougald, Griffin, Flowers, Lockett, Moore, Penny and really step into their potential, which I have hope for simply because Carroll took the worst roster in the NFL in 2010 and turned them into a legit Super Bowl contender by 2012, almost fully made up of his own guys. In the last two years, he’s had to replace most of his own guys with his new own guys and I would call this their second “2012” season. Last year was more of the 2011 variety, this is more of the 2012 variety, and I think that next season will give us a great opportunity to have an NFC West with both of these teams duking it out for the top spot -- how many times in the last 16 years could we say that about the Rams and Seahawks? Literally never times if we’re talking about both the Rams and Seahawks as legitimate Super Bowl contenders at the same time.
I don’t see Seattle as a serious Super Bowl contender after eight games, but we’ve seen them have unfathomable December runs (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016) that put them back on the map for the postseason. That did not happen in 2017 and they missed the playoffs. So now we’ve seen the bad outcome and we know that 2018 could also have a bad outcome. Carroll has not proven that he’s near the level of consistency as a Bill Belichick is, though I can’t recall a time in the last 20 years where him and Tom Brady were facing anything near what Carroll has faced in the NFC West (Harbaugh’s Niners, Arians’ Cardinals, McVay’s Rams) these last six years, so we can’t say for sure that he won’t be replaced in the next couple of years. I don’t expect it. I have no reason to expect it. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t be impressed with Seattle’s performance this year given their turnover dating back to last season and their abilities to do things on offense and defense that nobody was predicting they’d do. It’s just not quite enough to consistently win and at some point that might weigh against Carroll, but I really don’t see him having that bottom-out type of season. He never has. Not even in the Nineties with the Patriots and Jets.
Scale of 1-10? My confidence that the Carroll era will end soon (so a 10 being that it is going to end very soon) is probably a 2. And with the death of owner Paul Allen, I don’t think the franchise is in a rush to start making changes to the guy who has essentially been given total control of the franchise since 2010.
Thanks to my man Kenny for the time.