The Los Angeles Rams are headed to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 for a crucial NFC West clash on Thursday Night Football. With both at 3-1, it’s a heavyweight matchup that will both reshape the NFC and division standings while offering a tantalizing asterisk toward Week 14 when the two meet up again in LA.
To get a better sense of the opposition this week, I linked up with Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls, the SB Nation community for Seahawks fans.
So a month ago, you guys were riding high. FanPulse confidence levels were near 100%. Jadaveon Clowney was now a Seahawks after the Frank Clark trade left a spot open back in March. Things were looking good. So now that we’re at the quarterpole, how have things measured up compared to expectations? A 3-1 start is obviously a great way to get things going, but have the performances been up to par given what Seahawks fans were expecting heading into September?
The Seattle Seahawks are the best team in NFL history. Russell Wilson? The greatest quarterback. And since quarterback is the premier position, he’s the best player of all-time. When I think about guys like Jim Brown and Jerry Rice, I hate them because they take focus off of Wilson, which is basically idolizing false Gods, and that’s bologna. Score prediction, you asked me? They’ll probably call this one “Over” before it begins just to save Jared Goff’s arm from literally exploding and creating a rip in time-space, and the NFL doesn’t want to see its precious “LA” football team get annihilated on national TV. Wait, that wasn’t your question? Oh okay.
I think for me expectations are definitely higher because right before the Clowney trade, I didn’t peg Seattle as a playoff team. I mean, I thought they were in playoff contention, but I also feared a 6-10 season because I wasn’t sure what to expect without Earl Thomas again and no Doug Baldwin. The plan to run it a lot, well, we’d just wait and see. After the Clowney trade though, I put them firmly into my playoff predictions. Actually, I filled out one of those “predict every game” things and ended up with the Seahawks as the two-seed. Before your readers call me “homer” and “biased” for that, find me ONE INSTANCE EVER of me being biased towards the Seahawks or thinking they were a great team or that Wilson was a God. Literally find me ONE example. Bet you can’t. I’m not a homer at all, now that you think about it. The thing is that over time I started to get a little more down on the Rams because of natural regression (this is more accurate to me than “Super Bowl hangover.” The concept that if you’re having a great season one year, you are by the laws of nature more inclined to have a season less great the following year. The only thing that flies in the face of that is of course the Patriots. The lesson: Cheat more.) I wasn’t expecting the San Francisco 49ers to be 3-0. I thought Seattle could get to 12-4 with Clowney, Wilson, Bobby Wagner, and potentially a slightly easier schedule than the Rams. I think the NFL set the Seahawks up beautifully and this week is a prime example. They get to host the Rams on a short week. It feels very beneficial and maybe one of those instances of the league looking for more parity. The biggest reason I’m higher on the Seahawks now than I was then though -- which doesn’t mean I think they’ve necessarily gone from no playoffs to 2-seed to 1-seed -- is Wilson and Brian Schottenheimer. The offense is humming right now and while it hasn’t resulted in KC Chiefs points, it doesn’t have to. I don’t think that’s the intention. The intention isn’t to put their defense on the field that much. The intention is to over-compensate for a defense that is not nearly as stacked as it used to be. The intention is long drives. Last week they had a 8-minute drive in the fourth quarter to crush Arizona’s hopes. That’s the intention. Not bang-bang-bang. With that, Wilson’s having the best start of his career and Seattle, instead of being 2-2 or 1-3, starts off a season 3-1 finally. That’s what happened in the 2013, 2014 years, and Super Bowls came next. Is Super Bowl coming next? I think we need to see a lot more consistency from the Clowney/Ziggy Ansah pass rush, and we are eager to see what Jarran Reed will look like next to them in Week 7, but I’m more hopeful now than I was then, which was the question you asked. Right? I don’t know if they’re better than I thought they’d be, but I’m more hopeful because their record is good, the NFC doesn’t have a team pulling away from the pack, and there are a few unexpected bright spots like Will Dissly, Shaquill Griffin, Al Woods, and an even-more-improved Wilson & Tyler Lockett.
I AM NOT A HOMER.
Offense. Obviously, the big key here is efficiency. QB Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception, although you guys are only +2 overall thanks to the four fumbles. However, you guys are top 12 in rushing attempts and over the 4.0 yard per rush mark (what is the NFL version of the Mendoza Line?). So there’s balance and discipline from the QB. That’s a good combination. Is it sustainable? Are there any underlying concerns that just haven’t materialized yet that you think might? Any injuries that could derail things?
One guy that I think they’d like to stay healthy is Chris Carson. He had 21 broken tackles on Sunday. SportsInfoSolutions said that’s the most they’ve ever seen in a single game, though I don’t know how far back that goes. Probably not super far back. I just don’t think the team is excited about the prospect of Rashaad Penny as the lead back right now, plus Penny’s been getting little nicks again that keep him out. I don’t like the idea of CJ Prosise as a regular option either, so Carson’s gotta be the guy right now. Given that he missed most of 2017 and some of 2018, it’s a concern. Regardless of what anyone says about the mattering of backs.
I think the balance is sustainable with Carson because he is a three-down back and he’s now a threat in the passing game. Carson’s on pace for 400 receiving yards, which is a ton for this offense. Since they have a top-5 passing QB and a head coach who insists on running the ball, the balance has to work. I think Brian Schottenheimer is figuring it out and I wouldn’t be surprised if this results in him getting a lot of interviews next year. I know that shit sounds nuts to Rams fans, but show me the lie and I’ll show you Kyle Shanahan. Nepotism got him this far, Wilson can get him a little further. Now that you mention it, this offense feels a lot like Wilson/Marshawn Lynch except now the balance of talent has shifted more to the QB side than the RB side.
On defense, the Legion of Boom is over, but you guys have reloaded pretty well in short order. How are things looking on this side? What’s working, and what’s not?
Yeah, it’s not the secondary up here anymore, it’s the linebackers. The Seahawks ran 3 CBs for most of the last whatever years and now they’re going 3 LBs with Mychal Kendricks taking on a bigger role in the defense than Bruce Irvin or Malcolm Smith probably ever did. I’d say that’s a bigger difference than adding Clowney and Ansah, only because Seattle had some good pass rushers before and needed to replace them. This philosophical switch was based on losing three amazing secondary players and not being able to find replacements for any of them. Bradley McDougald is a fine safety. Tedric Thompson can get the job done OK. Shaquill Griffin is maybe the most improved player on defense and could be a star corner one day, maybe. Tre Flowers is the other corner and he’s fine, I’d say. We didn’t see the Seahawks get much pass rush until last week, but that came against Arizona. I’m much more curious to see how they do against Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein. That’s a test.
I think because they aren’t considered elite anymore, this defense could have more hustle, more effort, more energy than the last few. Those were older guys feeling like they had made their mark in the league already. Reports of them ignoring coaches at this point and thinking they’d done enough to earn some respect and responsibility that they didn’t have as young players. Those guys are gone now. Clowney’s fighting for a contract. Ansah’s fighting for a contract. Kendricks is fighting for a contract. Think about that. Flowers, Griffin, Tedric, LJ Collier, Poona Ford ... these guys are just fighting to earn the respect that the last guys had. They have Wagner in their ear every day reminding them of what a championship defense really looks like. Is it as good as the 2013 team? Not even close. Could it be? That’s what they’re trying to be sold on right now. It’s effective enough but to really put their stamp on shit, they need to beat the Rams, not the Cards, Steelers, and Bengals.
One of the more surprising statistics is where you guys stand on third down conversion. The Seahawks are 18/49 which is good for 22nd at 36.73%. Is this a fluky output, or is it indicative of something hindering the offense?
Is that so? Wilson looks awesome on third downs: 24-31, 77%, 2 TD, 128.2 rating, 9.6 Y/A. Maybe it just feels better to me because they’re coming off of an easier win. I think Schotty is still figuring out what’s gonna work best for this 2019 offense. They have a lot of changes. No Baldwin. Adding in DK Metcalf. Adding back Dissly. Carrying 7 wide receivers. A lot of it also probably has to do with getting into third-and-long and trying to avoid that in the future by having that proper balance of run/pass. Of Carson/Wilson. They seem more aggressive recently, throwing the ball downfield more often, in unexpected situations, and maybe that’s why I’m a little surprised at the low figure. It also means I must not have a very good answer for you! If they get into any third downs this Thursday, I expect them to convert 100% of them and they all go for touchdowns.
We’re gonna do this again when we meet back up in December with a much bigger sample size to comb through. So let me ask about the Pete Carroll era. We’re in Year 10. The contract extension you guys locked him up on expires after the 2021 season when he turns 70-years old. Is it fair to begin assuming that’s the end run? What would you say the chances are right now that the head coach of the 2022 Seattle Seahawks is named Not Pete Carroll?
I’m not gonna lie to you, Pete Carroll feels a little “older” to me this season. He just seems a bit more grandpa than dad now. I think he’s so great at what he does and I think mentally he’s always prepared to coach until he’s 80, but I don’t know. My gut says that if they won a Super Bowl, he’d walk away. He’d be able to secure a place in the Hall of Fame at that point maybe and be considered one of the all-timers at both levels of football. I wonder if he’s got two sons on the coaching staff, Nate and Brennan, and we’ve never heard many peeps of them moving up the rankings. That being said, I wonder if he’d like to get them promoted a little bit before he goes. I don’t know who’s in line to replace Carroll if he leaves, assuming they wanted to keep the system in house. I could see Carroll walking away from the field and holding residence in the front office. He’s basically been running the show that way since 2010 anyways. Clint Hurtt is the assistant head coach.
Bonus: NFC West QB power rankings. Go. (Hilariously when I asked this, Kenny mistook it for team rankings and had the Rams over the Seahawks which led me to believe he was ranking Jared Goff over Russell Wilson. I nearly fell out of my chair.)
Shit man, this is really hard. Your readers won’t like me. I really do not like Goff. But I also really do not like Garoppolo. I would take Kyler Murray over both but who knows if Kyler Murray will be any good. Are we talking about for one game or for one season or forever? Garoppolo can’t stay healthy in addition to throwing too many picks. I like Murray a lot but he’s got a long ways to go.
Thanks to my man Kenny for the time.