Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and an addition to his weekly ‘watch points’ series. Curtis’ latest look at the Seahawks and their opponents for the Pittsburgh game will be published on Friday…
With 17 games now, the season doesn’t split evenly into quarters. With Week Five being a short week for the Thursday game, we will call the first five games the first quarter of the season.
Record — 2-3
1. Russell Wilson
Ten touchdowns against one interception.
A 72% completion rate, easily clearing the magic 70% goal that Pete Carroll has long held out for him.
Leading the NFL in quarterback rate (a sizzling 125.3) and yards per attempt (9.6).
Throwing between the numbers better than he ever had before:
And reaching nearly 20 MPH on a go-for-broke touchdown run against San Francisco.
All this while breaking in a first time offensive coordinator.
Wilson is the MVP of the Seahawks and it is not even close.
Through five games, Metcalf is on pace to put up nearly identical numbers in targets, yards, catches, first downs and yards after catch to what he did in 2020 in a projected 16 games of 2021 play.
Then how is he more valuable to the Seahawks this year?
He is more efficient and usable in different ways.
He has five broken tackles already in just five games. His career high is eight. The toughness he has demonstrated has taken his impact to another level.
He is on pace for 17 touchdowns. His career high is 10.
Russell Wilson’s quarterback rating when he threw to him in the first five games? 138.5 – a fantastic 25% better than last year.
He is doing this all with his longest catch so far this season only being 30 yards. The days of sending Metcalf on only two or three deep routes are over.
Metcalf is running more varied routes than he ever has and putting himself in better position to catch the ball rather than just winning on pure athleticism and speed.
Again – all with a new offensive coordinator.
He has one official drop in five games. The in-game technical mistakes we saw last year have yet to surface this year. An opponent got under his skin and he drew a taunting flag on Metcalf. That problem appears to have been remedied.
He is quickly approaching a standing on the team equal to Tyler Lockett as the go-to receiver in clutch situations. And he still has room to grow.
He has had a fantastic start on the field.
In his first five NFL games, Taylor has recorded four sacks, seven pressures, two quarterback knockdowns and a forced fumble.
Three of those four sacks killed drives.
Two of those sacks came at key points in the game. The Seahawks were defending their red zone, so at least six points were all but assured and as many as 16 points were up for grabs.
The opposing offense ended up with only three points on those two drives because of Taylor’s sacks.
There are nine NFL players who have more sacks than Taylor this year. They are all on heavy snap counts.
The lowest is T.J.Watt at 54% of the Steelers’ snaps.
One other, Javon Hargrave, is playing 64% of the Eagles’ snaps.
The other seven are in the 70-90% range.
Darrell Taylor is running with them but is doing it in just 37% of the Seahawks’ snaps so far this year.
That is value.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Lockett
You know by now what Lockett brings to the Seahawks. He is a consistently productive receiver with a near-psychic connection with Russell Wilson. He’s perhaps the most clutch receiver in the NFL.
This year he has excelled in another way to help the team be successful — he has drawn three pass interference penalties for 80 yards in the first five games.
All three of those penalties extended drives and resulted in touchdowns for the Seahawks.
Lockett is earning every penny of that new contract extension.
In past report cards, I ranked the play of the rookies each quarter, handicapping a ‘Rookie of the Quarter’ award. With the lack of draft picks and many rookies injured, there is no one that deserves the award this quarter.
Instead we can talk about a couple small but nice things:
- John Rhattigan made the team and had a fumble recovery on special teams
- Jake Curhan making the team as an undrafted free agent and taking some snaps is commendable
- Dee Eskridge had two electric runs and one catch before going on IR
Hopefully Tre Brown can make his debut this quarter for a team that desperately needs a spark at cornerback and in the return game.
After experiencing delay after delay with his rehabilitation last year (and receiving occasional scraps of information spoken in positive tones but appearing extremely ominous) fans can be forgiven for waiting to see if Taylor could actually play in an NFL game before getting excited.
After five games, everyone now has license to get excited.
Watch him deliver that blend of speed and bend in the preseason.
Darrell Taylor ghost technique for the sack pic.twitter.com/zFDbHNl0Bm
— hawkschronicle (@hawkschronicle) August 29, 2021
Watch him put the Colts’ $70 million right tackle on the turf in his first NFL game.
I may watch this play more than my personal library of… Dan Marino throws.
— Mitch Levy (@Mitch_Seattle) September 14, 2021
Watch Rashod Hill get spun around and go horizontal to try and stop Taylor from swatting the ball away from Kirk Cousins and failing miserably.
It’s Taylor’s second sack through the first three games.
— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) September 26, 2021
It is only a five game stretch. He has a long way to go to become a complete player.
His injury history may rear its ugly head again.
But a big chunk of the frustration about the draft cost and the injury time lost is being spent right before our eyes.
Taylor is an incredible bright spot in a season that has been completely uneven.
2. The easy win in Indy
Starting the season on the road against a playoff team, albeit a banged up one. A team with superior strength on both sides of the trenches. Against an offensive line with a once-again reshuffled interior. With a new offensive coordinator. Without the benefit their starters having played a snap of preseason football.
The Seahawks passed the test with flying colors.
Chris Carson running tough. Russell Wilson throwing precision bombs. Tyler Lockett showing he is not getting complacent after getting another extension. The remade defensive line causing all kinds of problems for Carson Wentz.
It was a sight to see. For one bright week, the season got off to a great start.
3. Running backs in the passing game
The offense has made an effort to use the running backs more in the passing game this year and it shows.
The team is averaging 10.53 yards per catch with their running backs, a huge jump over last year’s 7.33 number.
They have regularly burned the opposition with simple passes in screens and wheel routes. The 28-yard pass to Collins in the San Francisco game was a catalyst for the offense to wake up after maybe the worst quarter of offensive football in team history.
Travis Homer appears to have found another way to help the team alongside his special teams and pass blocking responsibilities. Last year he had nine catches for 90 yards. Already this season in five games he has six catches for 75 yards, a robust 12.5 yards per catch average. When he comes on the field on third downs, it is not an automatic cue that he is just there to pass block.
The Seahawks in the past have used passing to the running backs almost as a mere courtesy – a way to spread the defense out a bit when they cannot get the running game going and the receivers are facing two-deep safety looks.
Now, they seem to be actually planning their use as a regular part of the offense.
Look for that to continue. Particularly when Chris Carson gets healthy.
1. Jamal Adams
Zero sacks. Zero quarterback pressures. Zero turnovers generated. Only two tackles for loss. A grade from PFF that is even worse than last year.
Adams’ #33 regularly appearing on highlight reels for the wrong reasons.
No admission from Adams or the team that his play has been seriously lacking.
A $70million contract that looks like an utter disaster not even two months after it was signed.
His performance in the first quarter has been so poor that even the most ardent proponents of the trade are changing their minds on the deal.
On the flipside, even the staunchest opponents of the trade have to admit that even this is worse than they could have expected.
The team publicly justified his 2020 play by pointing out he was acquired so late in the preseason, that he did not have time to be fully integrated into the defense and was playing out of sorts for most of the year.
That is believable.
What defies explanation is, knowing how important Adams was given their level of investment in trade, how the team could not get Adams signed and onto the field this offseason to actually get make sure he is fully aware of their defensive concepts and the role they have in mind for him.
Adams missed the OTA’s with an ‘excused absence’ and then opted to be in team meetings but not on the field in training camp or preseason as a ‘hold-in.’
All of which is excusable if Adams were playing well in the regular season. He is not. Rumors and talk about how the Seahawks are still fitting this player into the defense continue to dog the team as he logs ineffective game after ineffective game.
Beyond the obvious return on investment concerns, Adams is currently blocking young, inexpensive talent on the roster in Ryan Neal and Marquise Blair. The team has spent the affordable years of their NFL careers failing to explore whether they can fill prominent roles on this team.
And that is a shame.
The offense and defense frequently have been unable to play well at the same this quarter. The quality of complementary football is extremely lacking.
A disturbing trend with this defense is resurfacing and will not go away. There are just too many mirrors to last season’s defense to ignore.
The pass rush acquisitions were talked up as a real strength in 2021 – an unspoken mea culpa for fielding such a horrible unit in 2020.
Serious concerns about a major position group (cornerback) were answered with statements about competing and believing in the group and assurances that players like Tre Flowers were having their best offseason yet.
And yet just like last year, here we are. The Seahawks are fielding a team that after five games is on pace to concede the most yards in NFL history.
The pass rush is underwhelming (see below) and the defensive backs do not seem coordinated in the least.
This defense is seriously bad given the talent they have. Think of this – of the eleven primary defenders, only Kerry Hyder is the ‘new guy’ on this team. All of the others have experience in the system and familiarity with the coaching staff.
Yet this group looks as uncoordinated and disorganised as a team of guys in a pickup game that just met each other. That cannot be explained any other way than a result of poor coaching.
In answer to press inquiries, Pete Carroll has dusted off some of the same tropes he fed the press last year as well:
- “The players are doing what we ask in practice but we are not seeing it on Sundays”
- “We just need to clean up some things”
- “We thought we had some challenges worked out but they popped up again”
The unfortunate part with this team right now is Russell Wilson is hurt and there is no easy stretch of opponents with banged up second-rate quarterbacks trying to keep their teams afloat coming up on the schedule to prop this team’s confidence and record up.
For a team that is heavily dependent on veteran players (and seemingly not reinventing their defense from previous years) the return the coaches have been getting on the field is baffling.
The defense is dead last in yards conceded per game.
Rushing yards? 30th
Passing yards? 29th
Veterans like Bobby Wagner, Benson Mayowa and Carlos Dunlap occasionally make plays but appear more like spent forces than players that offenses have to consider in their game plan.
Jamal Adams’ skill and ability continue to go vastly under-utilised.
There is only thing worse than being bad.
Being bad and expensive.
That is where the team is currently. Major changes are coming.
3.Poor pass rush
The team has recorded ten sacks through five games. Last year after five games they had nine sacks.
Players yet to record a sack in 2021: Jamal Adams, Poona Ford, LJ Collier, Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, Bryan Mone and Robert Nkemdiche.
Darrell Taylor is the only player on the roster with more than one sack.
The pass rush is achieving a 23.4% pressure rate, a slight bump from the 21.4% rate the defense recorded through five games last year.
The good news (if you want to call it that) is that the team this year is doing that with half the amount of blitzing. Last year’s pass rush was truly horrid.
Week after week, watching Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford picking the defense apart from a pillowy-soft pocket after being told once again all offseason that the pass rush problems have been solved is just too much to bear.
Once again, the corners and safeties are being left out to dry by the lack of pressure on the quarterback.
If this team wants to survive the injury to Russell Wilson and get to the postseason, the pass rush is job number one to improve.
What will it take? More blitzing? Better coaching? Another miraculous in-season acquisition? Better effort from the players?
Every option must be explored. Right now.
An answer must be found. The team is at a crossroads right now.
The sunniest take imaginable: Sometimes losing your best player forces you out of your comfort zone. Options you have dismissed when your MVP-level quarterback was tearing the field up become much more plausible all of the sudden.
There exists a possibility that the suddenly adrenaline-focused front office and coaching staff will be forced to make this team better in order to avoid a total collapse — and this could reap positive results.
Dishonorable Mention: Jason Myers
Myers has already missed two field goals and an extra point.
All of those misses had a direct impact on the game.
Fans that expect another perfect season kicking field goals are going to be disappointed. That part of the game is just too unpredictable.
But Myers cannot keep going like he has in the first quarter. A return to more consistent play is absolutely necessary for this team to remain competitive.
@ Pittsburgh SNF
New Orleans MNF
@ Green Bay
The Seahawks will be fortunate to go 2-2 this quarter.
1, 2 and 3. Survive the absence of Russell Wilson
A backup entering the game and taking the game by storm is not an uncommon occurrence in the NFL (see Week Eight last year vs San Francisco — Nick Mullens put up 20 points on the Seahawks in the fourth quarter after subbing in for Jimmy Garropolo).
Now Geno Smith has a completely different task – to be the quarterback that teams game plan for. That is a whole different animal.
How can the rest of the team help Geno? Three ways.
1) More focus on the running attack
2)The defense must even out their inconsistencies
3)Special teams must go from merely adequate, back to the special unit they were last year
If you missed it this week, check out Rob’s plan for the Seahawks from 2022 onwards.
There were also two live streams to catch up on.
One with Brian Nemhauser:
And one with Jeff Simmons:
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