This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…
In the first quarter the Seahawks’ record was 3-1. The second, 2-2. This quarter they turned in a 1-3 performance.
A scraping win over one of the NFL’s worst teams, a confounding loss to a division rival that has given them fits for years and two losses to talented teams the Seahawks considered potential equals have exposed this team.
The phrase ‘one of the worst losses of the Pete Carroll era’ keeps popping up this year. A Week One disaster against the Rams, a Week Nine bludgeoning at the hands of the Ravens and the Week Twelve beating by the Niners all fit into that category.
The shine of so many critical players has worn off and revealed a dull finish. Players like Geno Smith, Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs have even the most optimistic Seahawks fans looking for other options.
Jarran Reed has reverted back to just another defensive line piece after a very promising start to the season – his sack and two TFL’s against Dallas broke a five-game drought in both categories.
Rumors of losing a step are unfounded. He had a spectacular quarter with 21 catches for 358 yards, for a gaudy 17 yards per catch average.
Four touchdowns, four broken tackles and a whopping 17 first downs present a fantastic picture of his effectiveness this quarter.
He also did not hurt the team, as he was only flagged once this quarter for a penalty and Dallas declined it.
2. Charles Cross
One penalty this quarter.
PFF grades of 54.8, 75.4, 81.3, and 74.5 in four weeks. For the Rams and Niners games, he had the best PFF grade on the Seahawks’ offense and according to PFF did not allow a sack and only three pressures vs Nick Bosa and Chase Young for a franchise-player-like 90.7 pass blocking grade in 43 pass blocking snaps.
He appears to have fully recovered from his early-season injury and is showing his best form yet. He is delivering a level of play you expect of a plug and play first round tackle.
The Seahawks will need every good snap he can give them down the stretch – particularly another sparkling game against San Francisco.
3. Devon Witherspoon
True, Witherspoon was targeted more this quarter than the last and he did concede three touchdowns. Yet he still had a great quarter.
Witherspoon recorded another sack, a QB Hit, a forced fumble, 26 tackles with two for a loss and six passes defended (he leads the Seahawks by a country mile this year with 15 passes defended). PFF loved his quarter, giving him an average score of 70.5, including an 82.7 against San Francisco.
The Rams game in particular was brilliant. He was targeted six times and conceded three receptions for one yard. That’s it. One lousy yard. He also added a sack, a pass defended, a pressure and a tackle for loss in that game.
He regularly finds multiple ways to contribute in every game and the Seahawks are better off for having drafted him.
Rookie of the Quarter
1. Devon Witherspoon
See above for the statistical evidence.
It is fascinating to note that when Seattle acquired Jamal Adams in July 2020, Pete Carroll was the one who made the ‘impact’ comparison between Troy Polamalu and Adams. Not in size and profile necessarily but in ways that effect the opposing offense due to his skill, creativity and vision.
Polamalu was immediately referenced by Carroll after the draft this year as another player who can similarly impact a defense. Witherspoon has regularly delivered in a way that Adams has not since that amazing debut game against the Falcons in 2020.
2. Zach Charbonnet
With Kenneth Walker hurt in the Rams game, the Seahawks badly needed Charbonnet to increase his role from being a change-of-pace back to the featured workhorse — and he has.
He had 69 touches this quarter for 288 total yards and a touchdown. He broke three tackles and provided the Seahawks with 16 first downs. You have to think if the Seahawks were more committed to the run, Charbonnet would have a couple more explosive runs after wearing the defense down a bit.
He is just getting started.
3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba
16 catches on 25 targets returned 196 yards. Half of those yards came after the catch, as Smith-Njigba is finally being put in a position to exploit his shifty skills. Nine first downs and two broken tackles only add to his success this quarter.
The Seahawks have utilized him to the point where Smith-Njigba is as viable a target as Tyler Lockett (who had 30 targets to Smith-Njigba’s 25 this quarter).
There is still plenty of ceiling that has yet to be reached.
Speaking of that, Smith-Njigba had a play this quarter that needs a point all its own…
1. The Spectacular Catch by Jaxon Smith-Njigba against San Francisco
Have a look:
J. S. N.
WHAT A GRAB.
— NFL (@NFL) November 24, 2023
Seeing this play on tape does not do it justice. From inside the stadium, you could see that Geno Smith had thrown the ball to Smith-Njigba’s left shoulder and he had to make an adjustment with the ball in the air to switch his vision from his right shoulder to his left and reacquire the ball in the air. Chris Collinsworth comments on how hard that is in the clip and being a former wide receiver, he would know.
Then there is the grab. Even with the adjustment, seeing it live your first thought is ‘no way, that is an overthrow and this drive is over.’ Smith-Njigba not only ran the route and got separation, adjusted to the ball in the air — he makes a spectacular one-handed grab. That ball cradled in his hand as if Geno had been two feet away and threw it underhanded to him.
Then there is the situation. The Seahawks had just pick-sixed the Niners to draw to 24-10 and the defense came right back on the field and forced a three-and-out. They had all the momentum at that moment. The Seahawks offense then gained one yard in two plays and sat deep in their own zone with a third-and-9, and they were in danger of ceding all the momentum right back.
Then came this catch. The stadium gasped and then exploded, the Seahawks’ sideline came to life and the offense drove down for a field goal.
If the team had managed a comeback in the game, that catch would have been pointed to as a key turning point.
2. Jordyn Brooks’ pick-six in the Niners game
JORDYN BROOKS PICK-6! @Seahawks back in it.
— NFL (@NFL) November 24, 2023
Credit to Leonard Williams and Boye Mafe for bringing the pressure on Purdy in the end zone and forcing an inaccurate throw, which Brooks easily cradled into his arms like his first-born child and danced into the end zone.
Their third pick-six of the season gave the Seahawks some hope in a very tough game. The defense provided points, special teams provided points but the offense just could not hold their end of the bargain up.
3. Jason Myers’ 17 points in the Washington game
The Seahawks were terrible on third downs in this game despite being very productive otherwise.
Myers kept this game on track for the Seahawks with a perfect day, including 5/5 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points.
Myers kicked a 43-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give Seattle the victory.
There just cannot be anything more concerning for the Seahawks at this moment. They have the roster talent that could be shepherded to an 11-to-13-win season, but poor decisions, bad game planning and lack of proper preparation have this team stuck in the mud.
Every game this quarter featured inadequate coaching:
– Washington freely had explosive pass plays on this defense. They schemed a way to isolate Boye Mafe on a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robinson. Later they found Dre Jones (of all people) on a 48-yard pass play to Robinson. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. The offense gained nearly 500 yards but could only put 29 points on the board due to a 4/14 third down performance.
– With a halftime lead against the Rams, the Seahawks refused to protect it by running the ball in the second half. This allowed the Rams to get back in the game. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. When Geno Smith suffered a bruised elbow, the Seahawks brought a cold Drew Lock into the game and – with a nine-point lead – called pass after pass. The result was predictable. The final offensive sequence of the game gave Jason Myers a much slimmer chance of making a long field goal and left everyone else making excuses for a wildly confusing sequence that wasted precious time.
– The Seahawks delivered a flat offensive performance against San Francisco (six offensive points and three of those were due to a 66-yard Dee Eskridge kick return) that started with a bizarre sequence with Geno Smith running on first down, coming off a bruised elbow with his availability for the game in question all week, followed by two questionable pass plays. On defense, they struggled to match the Niners’ intensity, with six missed tackles. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. Pete Carroll said they went too easy on the players in preparation for this game and should have practiced them harder. “Now we know that” he concluded. And after the game, Pete Carroll said he “will take full account” for getting the team back on track.
– The Cowboys game featured a much better game plan on offense as the Seahawks finally found ways to utilize their talented wide receivers. Unfortunately, that was at the expense of the run game as they only ran 22 times and lost the time of possession game by nearly 13 whole minutes. The defense also was particularly awful, conceding points on every drive except one where Cee Dee Lamb dropped a pass to kill the drive. Penalties burned them once again. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. The safeties looked particularly poor as well, conceding critical passes and missing tackles while trying to take shots. And the game’s deciding play was a call poorly conceived and even more poorly executed by Geno Smith and Deejay Dallas.
The offense leaned even more toward the pass, calling a 35/65 run/pass ratio of plays this quarter, despite having Kenneth Walker for two games and Zach Charbonnet and Deejay Dallas for all four. Late round draft pick Kenny McIntosh was activated before the San Francisco game and has yet to see an offensive snap. The play-calling this quarter revealed an inability to understand game theory. The defense needed critical time to rest. The passing game was running very hot and cold. Tight ends were running routes and not getting any targets and were therefore providing no value by their blocking in the run game.
Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted in coverage this quarter. He played every defensive snap and has played 98% of the snaps this season. Why? The Seahawks invested $3.5 million in Devin Bush and only brought him into the game this quarter when Jordyn Brooks got injured. They also invested very, very heavily to have three safeties that should be able to handle the coverage duties. But the team cannot seem to scheme Wagner out of coverage responsibilities. There are no excuses for this waste of resources.
Other player utilization seems extremely lacking. The tight ends. The running backs. Jamal Adams. Dre Jones noted he was ‘moved back to his natural position’ when the Seahawks acquired Leonard Williams but has not had enough of an impact to justify the large investment the Seahawks have made in him and the Rams exploited him in coverage for a big play.
The team committed 35 penalties this quarter for a whopping 340 yards. How bad is that? For a reference point, the Seahawks offense rushed for 348 yards this quarter.
A regular occurrence following a penalty was a breakdown. The offense cannot overcome a five-yard procedural penalty and is forced to punt or settle for a field goal. Conversely, the defense is doing the exact opposite – extending opponent drives with poor penalties and conceding points when they should be resting on the sidelines after a successful stop.
I wrote down three goals for this quarter in my Second Quarter Report Card: Find Your Identity, Improve on Offensive Playcalling and get back their Run Defense. I am forced to acknowledge that they failed in all three of those things. Spectacularly.
It all starts at the top.
Next Quarter Games
@ San Francisco
Fourth Quarter Goals
1. Develop the Future of This Franchise
I have routinely put this down as a fourth quarter goal in recent years.
There are players on the roster that need NFL snaps in order to develop. At the very least, get some reps on film for the front office to evaluate in the offseason.
Derick Hall needs more than the 26% of the snaps he has been apportioned so far. It is time to acknowledge Frank Clark is not going to benefit the Seahawks very much this season.
Ditto with Anthony Bradford and Phil Haynes. It is time to acknowledge that Haynes just cannot stay healthy.
Why did Jake Bobo only get six targets this quarter? And why were half of them behind the line of scrimmage? In the Cardinals game, they targeted Bobo five times and were rewarded with four catches for 61 yards (a gaudy 15-yard average), three first downs and a spectacular touchdown. He seems to be a casualty of the offensive confusion. They need to reintegrate him soon. And properly.
Cameron Young, Olu Oluwatimi, Kenny McIntosh, Devin Bush, even Tyreke Smith need snaps to see how and if they will fit on this team going forward.
And – dare I say it? – Drew Lock should get some game action.
The Seahawks have $12.7 million reasons to make that particular move. If Geno Smith ends the season on Injured Reserve, his salary for 2024 becomes locked as it is guaranteed for injury.
Giving some thought to playing Lock has serious merit and the Seahawks would be doing themselves a disservice if they did not have a look at how he runs the offense in a real live starting role.
Another coaching complaint: The Seahawks lead the NFL in missed tackles on defense.
Even when they make tackles, they let tough, determined players like Christian McCaffrey drag them for a couple extra yards.
Enough. Tackle the guy with the ball.
3. Please Stop Embarrassing Yourselves
Poor planning. Burned timeouts. Fronting off after an opponent makes a big play on you. Crazy matchups on defense and confusion on offense. Focusing on social media more than the next opponent. “I take full accountability for the poor play” after the game, followed by nothing but more poor play.