This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…
What a rollercoaster. There has been some dazzling, unexpected successes and some equally infuriating difficulties. It is too easy to focus on one to the exclusion of the other. Let’s try to strike a bit of a balance with an objective look at what the first quarter has shown us.
1. Geno Smith
Easiest choice on the whole report card. Geno has been a revelation so far and far exceeded expectations with his play.
A 75% completion rate, a 9/2 TD/Int ratio, only nine sacks and a QB rating of 113.2 only hint at the breakout we have witnessed from him so far.
It is the decisiveness. The use of the tight ends. The movement in the pocket to buy time and then running when out of time. The fact that he is not afraid to throw downfield and give his wide receivers a chance to make a play on the ball.
All these things are propelling the offense in the way it has been designed to do.
A large chunk of this play I personally only saw the slightest of glimpses and hints of when I attended three training camp days and the mock game. I thought in a fair competition, that Drew Lock had more potential to elevate the offense. Geno has proved that wrong on every level and I am thrilled to say that I was wrong.
Imagine if I told you the day after Russell Wilson was traded that Tyler Lockett would explode out of the gate and be on track for career highs in targets (136), catches (108), yards (1380) and first downs (61) after the first five games?
That is exactly what he is doing.
Lockett has found another level to ascend to — it doesn’t matter who is throwing, if the quarterback can get him the ball, he will make plays. The legendary Wilson-Lockett mind meld connection that was severed with the trade this spring has not affected Lockett’s production one little bit.
When you look at the Seahawks’ roster up and down from a salary cap perspective, you see many players that are not earning their salary. Lockett is one of the highest paid Seahawks in the locker room and is earning every penny and then some so far.
He had a fumble on a punt return but that is so infrequent and out of character for him it is hard to hold that against him (unlike Metcalf, who is still having ball security issues). And in a way, when he makes a mistake, it so jarring it highlights how efficient and safe he is as a player.
This is not a sentimental choice, giving him extra consideration as a fifth-round rookie with a dazzling skillset that somehow made the team and has started all five games.
No one player on the defensive side of the ball has done more from his area of responsibility to change the outcome of games than Woolen (with all due respect to Al Woods).
Let us count the ways…
Three interceptions. None of them are of the cheap variety. One of them he returned for a touchdown.
Four passes defensed. Allowing a very low completion percentage when targeted.
A fumble recovery. Blocking a field goal that got returned for a touchdown by Michael Jackson.
The Seahawks have struck gold here.
Honorable Mention: Will Dissly
14 catches in 15 targets, three touchdowns (he needs just one more to tie his career high), five first downs, great run blocking and a 71.6 PFF score. This is the Will Dissly the Seahawks have so sorely needed the last three seasons.
Rookie of the Quarter
See above. His impact has been definite and immediate for the Seahawks. Nobody – including Pete Carroll – could have seen this coming. He was already a steal in the fifth round for his measurables alone.
He has demonstrated that he is so much more than a scouting profile though – he has ‘put all the tools in the box’ by translating those measurables into fantastic play the field. That blinding 4.26 speed has shown up in game situations, whether it be closing the gap on receivers to make plays on the ball or chasing down breakaway runners. He has also demonstrated a fantastic under-the-radar quality — he is hard-nosed and physical with receivers and backs in the running game.
The crucible of the offseason camps and constantly lining up across varied skillsets at the wide receiver position has revealed a whole new depth to his game. He is poised, has above average technique (in the Saints game he executed a jam on the receiver so perfect the referees flagged him for holding) and thanks to his work in practice against behemoths like D.K. Metcalf and speedy mighty mites like Marquise Goodwin, he has a strong well of experience against different types of receivers to draw from.
Outline for me the absolute best-case scenario you could envision for Lucas this spring. Now tell me he has not done everything you could have possibly imagined.
Thanks to the early identification by Rob, we have all had a chance to track his progress since last fall.
He looked great at the Senior Bowl, then blew the combine up with a performance that got puzzlingly little response from the scouting community. He slipped in the draft while the Seahawks addressed other gaping needs. The Seahawks then ran the card to the podium in the third round, while all SDB popped champagne corks.
He had a great camp and won the starting right tackle job. He mauled people in the run game and was technically proficient in the passing game in preseason.
And when the lights came on, they were not too bright for him. He has taken on all comers and not only put up a performance that stands with the best rookies in the NFL but the best right tackles in the NFL period.
One of the biggest signs of respect came in Week Two. The Niners defense was not getting much push from Nick Bosa lined up over Lucas, so they moved him inside to work in the interior and Bosa immediately caused trouble there.
One game and change into Lucas’ first NFL season.
At this pace a Pro Bowl selection is not too far out of his reach.
Mafe had a couple dazzling plays in the preseason. In comparison to the two rookies above him, he has not had a massive impact in the regular season so far.
That does not mean his performance so far should not be acknowledged. On a team with incredible challenges on defense he has a sack, 11 solo tackles and a 62.1 PFF rating in only 37% of the snaps so far this season.
He has been name-checked by Pete Carroll several times as a candidate for more snaps as other players have been banged up. More snaps are not always proportionate to more production as a player but Mafe has earned every chance to show us whether that is true for him or not.
Honorable Mentions-Charles Cross, Coby Bryant, Ken Walker
First off, Isn’t it great we have so many rookies playing, and playing well, that we have to have three honorable mentions?
Cross has stepped into the starting Left Tackle spot and has not given anyone pause to think that was a mistake. He has adapted to the NFL well in both the passing and run game. His technique challenges are evident and he has taken a couple of badly timed penalties to kill key offensive plays. The foundation is there though.
Bryant has not surprisingly struggled to adapt to being a nickel corner. His ball-skills are evident however with two forced fumbles. Along with Woolen, the Seahawks now have corners who can create turnovers, something sorely lacking in recent years.
Walker had two runs this quarter that gave fans just a taste of what he is capable of. With Penny’s injury, he is no longer a supplemental weapon. He is the main attraction now. How he handles being the focus will be very intriguing to watch.
1.Explosive Plays on Offense
The offensive fireworks have not been limited to just a few players. Everyone is contributing. Besides the star players, Travis Homer, Colby Parkinson, Deejay Dallas, and Noah Fant have explosive plays. Even Geno Smith has three explosive runs for crying out loud.
The only key offensive player who does not have an explosive play yet is Dee Eskridge and we know that is just a matter of time.
In fact, the long gainers have come so frequently, the defense is having trouble catching their breath before going back out on the field. This offense is not plodding along in any way.
That home opener against the Broncos was a game set by the football gods. Everyone knew what was at stake and the flood of emotions that would surround that game. ESPN even moved off their traditional double-header Monday Night Football season opener in order to feature this particular game.
It was a buildup of years of pent-up emotions on all sides. This game had polarized everyone and was appointment watching.
The crowd was rocking. The defense had two key takeaways. Geno Smith came to play and managed to do enough to win.
Russell Wilson found out that for one game, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.
It was a pure expression of what Seattle Seahawks football has been like in the past decade. Exhilarating, infuriating and incredible.
Where would the Seahawks be right now if they did not have this rookie class?
The foundation for this team is materializing right in front of our eyes. Players are getting critical snaps and opportunities, whereas in the past rookies were either injured badly or held back for seemingly ages while do-nothing veteran players occupied their precious development snaps.
Tariq Woolen, Abe Lucas, Ken Walker, Boye Mafe and Charles Cross look like foundation stones that will get second contracts with the Seahawks. Maybe a third.
Coby Bryant has undeniable skills. It will be fascinating to see if the Seahawks intend to keep him at nickel or move him back to his natural spot at outside corner.
The Seahawks knocked this draft out of the park. How sweet it will be watching this class grow up together.
Honorable Mention: Uchenna Nwosu, the Tight Ends
In a sea of defensive confusion and chaos, Nwosu has proven to be an excellent free agent signing by the Seahawks. He seems to have taken to a very critical role in the 3-4 defense extremely nicely. He has two sacks, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, seven quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and that all adds up to a 73.8 PFF rating.
The only concern is he is playing 80% of the snaps. The Seahawks will need to walk that back in order to keep him fresh for 17 games.
Last year the tight ends had 99 targets, 39 first downs and five touchdowns.
This year they are on pace for 132 targets, 55 first downs and 14 touchdowns.
The cost/benefit for the group is finally swinging out of the red and into the green. Hallelujah.
For every explosive play the offense gains, the defense gives one up.
For every sustained drive the offense gets, the defense gets flagged while stopping a team on third down and the drive is extended.
Tackling is a trip to the zoo. Gaps are wide open.
Veterans are not carrying the newer and younger players. Quite the opposite.
It has gotten to the point where the teams are running plays the Seahawks have seen several times and they still cannot stop them.
Every fundamental area on the defense has been lacking. Lining up correctly. Knowing where the gaps are and who is responsible for them. Making sure key offensive weapons are accounted for.
The worst thing might be, we don’t know if anybody cares.
Quandre Diggs has openly spoken about their issues but backed up his words with listless, unmotivated play in recent games. Al Woods has earned the freeness of speech to be forthright with the press but nobody in the locker room seems to be responding.
Pete Carroll and Clint Hurtt have yet to give us a concrete answer about the challenges they are having, other than to stick to bland generalities about ‘working hard’ and ‘it will happen’. Or put another way, the same things we have heard in previous seasons about defensive problems. When you hear flat excuses for three seasons running, they just ring hollow.
This is unacceptable effort and execution for even high school football. For a professional football franchise led by a head coach with a lifetime of defensive experience, it is inexcusable.
2.Defense: Too Many Key Players Not Making Key Plays
Even for all the scheme, coaching and mistakes challenges everyone is having, you would think at least one player of this group would occasionally just have a singular play where their talent and instincts overcome it all.
Jamal Adams lasted 15 snaps before getting hurt. He did manage to take another throw off his facemask when the Seahawks desperately needed a turnover.
Quandre Diggs has yet to make a game-changing play this season. An interception, a guided-missile type hit that fires the defense up or a pass breakup that only he can make.
Darrell Taylor – his 6.5 sacks last year felt like a huge redemption after a lost rookie season. The light came on and fans finally breathed a sigh of relief that they might have a young pass rusher to build around. This year? He appears to have been swallowed up by a new scheme, more snaps and more assignments in the run game. In the first quarter last year, he was literally saving the Seahawks points on defense with key sacks. This year you have to squint your eyes at the television to find his #52 on the field.
Jordyn Brooks has yet to record a single tackle for loss this season and unbelievably has gotten worse in pass coverage (conceding a whopping 15 yards per target, a touchdown and a 139 QB rating).
Shelby Harris has no sacks and only 1 tackle for a loss.
There are millions of cap dollars and several high draft picks invested in this group. The Seahawks are getting almost nothing in return.
3.Defense: The Totality of this Group
They are the second-worst scoring defense in the NFL. Detroit is last by an eyelash.
They are currently the worst run defense in the NFL.
There are currently only 3 teams with less sacks than the eight they have logged so far. Two of those eight sacks have come from blitzers (Cody Barton and Coby Bryant).
Last spring, when Pete Carroll told the press “We have been arrogant on defense”, fired Ken Norton Jr and released the underachieving Bobby Wagner. We all breathed a big sigh of relief.
Finally, the moves to right this ship were being made.
If we only knew.
The defensive collapse has been just a big a shock as the offensive surge.
Next Quarter Games
1.Fix The Defense
Something. Anything. Give us something to believe in.
With the way the offense is playing, we do not need the defense to be a top-10 unit. Just middle of the pack.
Start slowly and build.
Have the guys knowing their assignments one week. Minimize the penalties the second. Work on creating some pass rush the third. And so on.
2.Keep the Running Game Afloat
Rashaad Penny is out. It’s Ken Walker’s gig now.
A critical ingredient of keeping offensive balance has been affected. It is a huge step in the right direction that Walker came into the game in relief of Penny and busted off a 69-yard run. Teams have that on tape. And now they know they cannot afford to ignore the running game with Penny out.
That does not mean ‘business as usual,’ running out the exact same package of plays for Walker that you otherwise would have for Penny.
You do not need to ram him up the middle so much. Back off that a little and get Walker in space. Let him stretch his legs a little and fire up some of that electricity to get defenders wary of him. And then hit them with some of those inside zone runs.
Spread the load out. Get Deejay Dallas some plays. Design some package plays for Dee Eskridge.
Maybe even Dareke Young should get in on the action a little. Word was he could become a scout-team Deebo Samuel type player. Why not work a little of that into the offense?
The team is in a very precarious position at this moment. With the defense so poor, the offense cannot afford to falter even a little, lest the game get totally out of hand.
This might be like tuning a Formula One racing car. Slowly make a small tweak and see how it performs. Then make another. And another.
Shane Waldron and the staff will need to keep progressing in their game planning and calls.
3.Keep Incorporating the Young Talent
Justin Coleman is close to coming back. What does that mean for Coby Bryant? Can they try him out at the outside cornerback spot?
Phil Haynes has started to take snaps from Gabe Jackson. Let’s see that continue.
Alton Robinson and Tre Brown should be back off Injured Reserve this quarter.
They badly need Robinson to work into the rotation. They have Mafe, Taylor, Nwosu and whatever veteran who they can get off the street playing those two spots.
Dee Eskridge must get more involved in this offense. It is easy to look at the top two wide receivers and the tight end group flourishing and shrug at Eskridge. He should be the x-factor, the ingredient teams just cannot account for because Lockett and Metcalf have the defensive backs occupied and the tight ends have the linebackers spoken for.