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5 Qs, 5 As with Field Gulls

Pete Carroll’s stupidest decisions, the problems on Seattle’s defense, and what’s new with Shane Waldron?

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams face the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football at 5:20 PM. The game can be watched on TV or on Amazon Prime. To get to know the 2021 Seahawks better, I sent five Qs to Mookie Alexander of Field Gulls and in kind he sent me five corresponding As.

Q - If you could remove any player from the game on Thursday, which Rams player would you force to be “Inactive”?

A - I almost said Cooper Kupp just to not say the obvious answer. I think he’s well established as an elite receiver and the Seahawks defense is bad. In nine games (playoffs included) he has 46 catches for 550 yards and 3 touchdowns. I’m dreading how badly Kupp and Matthew Stafford will carve apart this secondary.

But of course the answer is Aaron Donald. He has 15 sacks of Russell Wilson in 15 games against the Seahawks. Wilson will probably still be under pressure quite often whether or not Donald plays, but Donald is one of the greatest defensive players we have ever seen and I’d love for him to have the night off.

Q - Prediction time: On what date will Dee Eskridge first cross over 100 receiving yards for the Seattle Seahawks — if ever — and why?

A - October 31st is my prediction. Eskridge has missed three games in a row with a concussion suffered in his debut against the Indianapolis Colts. And it was the type of concussion where he fell back and did the fencing posture you tend to see out of boxing and MMA knockouts. That’s really bad. I doubt he plays Thursday having just returned to practice recently, so there’s a better shot of him returning against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 17. Eskridge only has 6 receiving yards right now but I think he’s going to get to 50 yards by the New Orleans Saints game and then eclipse 100 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team ideally still coached by Urban Meyer just in time for them to completely quit on the mere thought of him being in an NFL locker room.

Q - How would you rank all four offensive coordinators who have worked for Pete Carroll in Seattle, where does Shane Waldron fall in now, and where do you think Shane Waldron will fall if I ask you this in two years?

A - Brian Schottenheimer is tops purely because of Russell Wilson’s improvement as a pure pocket passer, Darrell Bevell is 2nd even though I’ve frequently been a critic of his during this time in Seattle, Shane Waldron is 3rd on the basis of not having enough games under his belt, and Jeremy Bates is last but he only got one season to coordinate an offense with an aging Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst as his quarterbacks. The height of his time in Seattle was the win over the Saints in the playoffs. The low point is when Bates called a play in which he rolled out Hasselbeck in this own end zone on a bootleg. That was high comedy and naturally ended in a sack-fumble touchdown.

In two years and working under the assumption that both seasons will have Russell at quarterback, I can see him being the Seahawks’ best offensive coordinator. They’re 2nd in DVOA right now and they have much room for improvement as far as not alternating touchdown drives with three-and-outs. I’m lukewarm on his playcalling tendencies but the positives that we have seen — that smooth two-minute drill vs. Tennessee to end the opening half, the frequent motion and heavy play-action use against the Colts — stand out as reasons for optimism that this could be a very good partnership that keeps the Seahawks as a playoff team.

Q - I’m going to force you to play the blame game: Blame Seattle’s 32nd-ranked defense (total yards) on ONE person. Who? Why?

A - Pete Carroll. And that’s for hiring Ken Norton Jr in the first place. Has he had the misfortune of coordinating the defense post-Legion of Boom? Yes. Has he produced far worse worse results than his predecessors? Absolutely. This is not a defense lacking any talent but they have been mediocre at best and at their very worst they are close to the worst in the league (and in the case of the total yards metric, the literal worst).

Norton has never been an above-average coordinator either in Seattle or when he was with the Raiders. In 2016 the Raiders were one of the NFL’s worst defenses by DVOA and that was in a year in which Khalil Mack won Defensive Player of the Year. His time in Seattle has been marred by numerous coverage breakdowns and horrible defense on early downs (which leads to touchdown drives in which teams aren’t even forced into 3rd down at all). Even with last week’s win over the 49ers I remain unconvinced this defense has actually improved until there are far better showings against top-flight offenses than what we’ve seen over the past few years. This is a defense that can largely neutralize bad offenses and/or bad quarterbacks, but when tasked with playing Minnesota this year or Buffalo last year they get absolutely torn apart.

This was never a good hire even with the benefit of hindsight and Carroll, a supposed defensive-minded coach, has not earned that reputation in quite some time. The state of the Seahawks’ cornerback position is really most damning of him. So while I want Norton fired, Pete’s the one culpable in the first place.

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Q - The stupidest thing that the Seahawks have done in the last five years is: _________________

A - Draft Rashaad Penny in the 1st round. This more of a criticism of Pete Carroll and John Schneider for the ridiculous thought process than Penny the player. Seattle’s running game was absolutely terrible in 2017 and the free agent signing of Eddie Lacy backfired spectacularly. Chris Carson, then a rookie, was the best of the running backs on the team but he broke his ankle. Pete Carroll likes to run the ball so a year in which the leading rusher was Russell Wilson and the running back with the most yards was Mike Davis with 240 on 68 carries, this clearly messed with his head.

The solution was not to go with a RB with your first-round pick. But knowing how deep this running back class was, it was a bit predictable. Maybe I’d be singing a different tune if they’d taken Nick Chubb, but they almost always go the surprise route with the first pick and this was a headscratcher at the time.

I assume one of the reasons Penny was taken over Chubb was that Penny had no major injury history in college, whereas Nick had a horrible knee injury in 2015 but was totally fine the ensuing two seasons. Penny has been injured every year in the NFL including his own bad knee injury in 2019 just as he was having his best form as a pro. He’s currently on IR for another few weeks at a minimum so by the time he’s off of it, he’ll have missed more games than he’s played in through 3 1/4 seasons. Penny has yet to start a game which is incredible for a first-round running back. That means Seattle will have most likely wasted a first-rounder on someone who was never able to unseat Chris Carson as a starter. Terrible process and terrible outcome. I hope Penny can be healthy and keep playing in the NFL but he has no future with the Seahawks at all.

Down the line though this answer might change to “trade two first-rounders for Jamal Adams” because Adams is going to have to play at a HOF level to justify just how much they gave up for someone they’re still trying to figure out how to best utilize two seasons into his time in Seattle.