Curtis Allen’s week eight watch points (vs Jaguars)

Note: This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

Looking at the schedule before the season started, Week Eight against the Jacksonville Jaguars had the look of a classic trap game. A lesser-talented opponent who is breaking in a new quarterback and coaching staff and just looking to prove they belong in the NFL. Plus they’re travelling across the country to do it.

Those were fonder times.

Now, with the Seahawks currently riding a three-game losing streak after losing two winnable games, this Jaguars team suddenly seems much more threatening. 

No one should be taking them for granted. Pete Carroll’s language at his press conferences is getting more stilted by the week. He knows the hole the Seahawks are in. A playoff spot hangs in the balance from every game here on out.

Even then, major changes seem inevitable.

For this week though, how can the Seahawks find success against this upstart team? Let’s dig in to this week’s watch points…

Special Teams must pull their weight

They were a strength last year. 

This season, they are barely passable. That has had a much bigger effect on the teams’ success than it normally would, with the inconsistency experienced on both offense and defense shaking the foundations of the team.

We know all about Jason Myers’ struggles with kicking for points. 

Despite all the frustrations with the offense and the occasional defensive breakdown on Monday, Myers makes those two field goal tries and the Seahawks are 3-4 instead of 2-5.

One area that is also different in 2021 is on kickoffs. Myers is on pace for only 23 touchbacks on kickoffs. Last year he had 52 touchbacks.

It would appear it is not a leg strength issue for Myers but a deliberate strategy to make the returner bring the ball out and use the coverage units to keep them from starting at the 25-yard line. This year, they are allowing 18.64 yards per kick return — good for twelfth in the league. Last year they were at 21.45 per return, good for twentieth in the league.

For this game they would be well-advised to kick it out of the end zone on kickoffs and take the touchback.

Jamal Agnew is returning kicks at an NFL-best 27.73 yards per return this year.  He has a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as well as a 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown:

The Seahawks cannot afford to give the Jaguars any cheap points or momentum. Kick it out of the end zone and concede the five extra yards.

Speaking of touchbacks, Michael Dickson is not having a good season. He is currently on pace for 17 touchbacks this season.

How different is that compared to past seasons?  He had a total of 16 touchbacks in the previous three seasons combined.

That is a major reason why he is not among the league leaders in raw punt yards and net yards this season. 

What is the problem?

It is a combination of challenges. The punt coverage team has failed to down the ball deep more than once, letting it flutter into the end zone for a touchback and costing the team 15-18 yards. 

Dickson’s aim and touch do not seem to be as pinpoint accurate as they have in the past. 

It would also appear that Pete Carroll is calling punts in opposition territory even more frequently this year. In the Pittsburgh game, the Seahawks twice were in position for either a long field goal try or a fourth down gamble but Carroll chose to punt. Both punts resulted in touchbacks, which only netted the Seahawks about 18-20 yards each and failed to pin the Steelers offense deep.

The team badly needs better results from their Special Teams unit.

Attack the defense with the tight ends

Jacksonville is hands down the worst team in the NFL at defending tight ends so far this season.

Myles Jack is conceding a 144.8 rating in coverage. Damien Wilson is allowing a 129.4 rating. Combined, they are giving up 9.81 yards per target.

Nearly every week this season the Jaguars are allowing opposing tight ends to have career-best days. Among them:

-Week One:  Pharaoh Brown (4-67-0TD) for Houston

-Week Four:  C.J. Uzomah (5-95-2TD) for Cincinnati

-Week Six:  Mike Gesicki (8-115-0TD) for Miami

Watch Uzomah abusing Myles Jack:

The Seahawks must take advantage of this weakness.

It appears to start with allowing tight ends free releases and then progresses to having plenty of room to find soft pockets in their zones.

The Seahawks have capable tight ends in Gerald Everett, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. It is inexcusable that they have not leaned on them more in the recent past, particularly since Russell Wilson was injured. 

The offense has so many challenges. Getting the tight ends more involved would give the whole team some momentum.

Will Geno Smith have enough time to find the tight ends from the pocket?

Yes, he will.

Jacksonville is currently fielding one of the NFL’s worst pass rushes. They have eight sacks and 51 pressures in six games so far. Only three teams in the entire NFL have worse numbers than the Jaguars in pass rushing.

As a result, the defense is next to last in the NFL in passing yards conceded, giving up 297.8 yards per game this season.

Jacksonville is practically sending the Seahawks an engraved invitation to use their tight ends this week. The coaching staff must give the offense some executable plays to exploit this advantage.

Sidetrack Trevor Lawrence’s progression for one game

Lawrence is on the rise and has been playing like a top overall pick in recent games.

The turnaround has been truly impressive. After testing out his aggression early and seeing how good NFL defenses are (nine turnovers in his first three games) he has found a rhythm and is no longer hurting his team (only two turnovers in his next three games – one of those a desperation heave that was intercepted).

In that same stretch of games his accuracy has improved markedly (54% to 66%).

Both Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell and Quarterbacks Coach Brian Schottenheimer have spoken openly in recent weeks about the level of trust that Lawrence has earned with his practice habits and game play. They even have him calling protections at the line of scrimmage — just six weeks into his NFL career.

His mobility has been a big asset for the offense. He is gaining 4.65 yards per rush and he is one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL due to his release and his ability to scramble and throw on the run.

This has been noted by Schottenheimer:

“I think he’s one of the best pure throwers on the run that I’ve ever been around in my career. So I think he’s right on track.”

High praise from someone who worked with Russell Wilson very recently.

Watch this beauty:

That throw had Troy Aikman drooling. Lawrence senses trouble to his right, moves around in the pocket and with a pass rusher coming from his left, puts the ball in a narrow spot with a throw that requires the holy trinity of passing skills — arm strength, accuracy and touch.

So where can the Seahawk defense challenge Lawrence?

Like many young players who enter the league with a flourish, Lawrence can produce spectacular highlights but struggles at times with the simple plays. Short passes that require the timing and precision have been a challenge for Lawrence.

His “Bad Throw Percentage” per Pro Football Reference is at 23.3% year to date — one of the worst in the NFL right next to fellow rookies Justin Fields (24.6%) and Zach Wilson (23.9%).

Miami forced him into 24% bad throws in his last game by blitzing fifteen times. So, while he has a good head on his shoulders and can make plays, he has yet to put it all together. That can play into the Seahawks’ hands if they game plan and make good adjustments in the game.

The defense needs to continue the steady coverage precision that the cornerbacks have found in recent weeks. Keeping Lawrence away from easy yards off his first read will be a key to bottling up the talent and aggression he has.

One way to apply pressure is by putting more of the game in his hands…

Keep James Robinson under wraps

Robinson has emerged as a lead running back and workhorse for the Jaguars after going undrafted in 2020.

He averaged over 100 yards of offense last year, the only rookie running back to do so. NFL players recognized his value and contribution to the Jaguars by ranking him #100 in the annual Top-100 Players in the NFL poll after only one season:

This year he is even better — averaging a terrific 5.5 yards per carry so far. He is being well-supported in the running game by the Jacksonville offensive line, with an average of 3.0 yards before contact. He is also not letting defenders consistently stop him cold, gaining an average of 2.5 yards after contact. Both of those numbers are in the top-10 in the NFL for running backs.

Have a look at some highlight clips from this season:

Robinson is clearly a versatile runner — equally comfortable attacking the edges or running inside with toughness. He may not be spectacular but he has enough vision and physicality to put a dent in the defense. He has carved himself an impressive NFL career to date for an undrafted player.

We know what Darrell Bevel and Brian Schottenheimer’s style is at this point. Run to set up the pass and other movement parts of the offensive game.

He is good at making the first man miss in both the running game and catching passes. Expect the Jaguars to feed him generously in this game, particularly given how much success Alvin Kamara and Najee Harris had in the last two games against the Seahawks.

Both were limited in what they could do on the ground but found seams and broke tackles in the short passing game to exploit the Seahawks’ defense and keep their quarterbacks from carrying a burden they were not capable of.

The Seahawks have improved defensively but they need to keep progressing.

D.J. Reed has been a fantastic tackler in the run game. Ryan Neal, Jamal Adams, and Jordyn Brooks could all take a lesson from Reed and up their games in this area. Wrap up and take him down hard.

Getting low will be a challenge when you are trying to tackle a guy who is 5’9”. That is where Robinson excels – he does not present you a big target to get your hands on yet is strong enough in his lower body to churn ahead and break tackles. Is the defense up to the challenge?

Trevor Lawrence is quickly filling out that uniform and is on his way to becoming a force at quarterback and Robinson is a major balancing piece to keep as much pressure off Lawrence as possible at this stage.

They cannot allow Robinson to control the tempo of the game. He will get his touches in both the passing and running game. How many yards he gains is entirely up to the day the tacklers have.

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  1. BobbyK

    Good stuff, as usual.

    I can’t believe it has come to this. We’re playing a bad team and I have doubts about winning – not because of an “upset” – but because my favorite team simply isn’t that good.

    From the LOB era of expecting to win most weeks and going into every week of feeling like you should win – to this. For all the younger fans we didn’t get the “joy” of watching Seahawks football in the 1990s. This is your chance to live through that history with us in 2021. Unfortunately, we’re not going to party in 1999 like Prince did. We’re going to “party” like Seahawks fans did, which sucked.

  2. Paul Cook

    Losing to the Jaguars would be like the Huskies losing to Arizona last week (Huskies eked out a victory against perhaps the worst power 5 conference team). It would represent some kind of definitive bottoming out of the season. Sure they could lose more, but the extent of the damage and the significance of it for the franchise will have been clearly revealed to all but the most steadfast of holdouts.

    To me, the extent of PC’s philosophical stubbornness, incessant meddling, and inability to relinquish some control of the team when necessary came to a hilt with the Shane Waldron experiment. What an absolute bust or ruse this hiring turned out to be. It brought no new change of offensive philosophy or direction that I can detect. Even RW’s game didn’t evolve in certain ways that I and others thought would make him an even deadlier weapon under center at this point in his career.

    I have to agree with those who’ve opined that PC brought him in just to appease RW, but had no intention of truly relinquishing control of the offense and let him develop a more aggressive and innovative offensive scheme that sought to maximize the potential of the weapons we had. What a crock this whole Shane Waldron experiment turned out to be. This perhaps more than anything exposed that PC is never going to change or evolve, or at least that he can’t be trusted to do so.

    Our offense has been gutless, inconsistent, self-defeating and boring, aside from some magical plays from RW and some tough and shifty running by a RB nearing his last chances to make something more of his football career.

    • BobbyK

      The fact their “plan” at center was for there to be competition between two proven horrible players speaks volumes. A true ‘WTF’ moment if ever there was one.

      • Paul Cook

        The lack of beefing up the quality on the OL these past few off seasons was a particularly disheartening circumstance for me. I knew we had to be like a top 5 offense if we were going to be any kind of a force to be reckoned with this year. We all knew our D was going to be challenged, but we equally knew we had some real talent on the offensive side of the ball with the likes of RW, DK, TL, and perhaps a few others.

        I was cool with the Eskridge pick. A bit hopeful with our TE situation. Tentative but somewhat hopeful our RB situation could be good enough if we remained healthy there. But the OL needed a couple of solid upgrades, and, with the exception of Lewis, they just skimped on it when it didn’t have to be that way.


  3. Call Me AL

    Very nice write up highlighting key areas of strengths and weaknesses for both teams. It will be interesting to see if PC continues with his conservative offensive approach or if he opens things up a bit. But I have no faith in the Seahawks being able to figure out how to effectively utilize a tight end. That ship sailed years ago…

    You’ll have to excuse me if I happen to enjoy PC “getting more stilted by the week”. He’s been above reproach to the point of being arrogant for far to long. Now he’s facing criticism from all sides. But I think the thing that weighs the heaviest on him is despite what I’m sure he feels are his best efforts, the team just continues to get progressively worse. I’m sure he also realizes that there is a looming confrontation with the RW camp on the horizon. The energy is gone and he just looks tired now.

  4. Paul Cook

    By the way, nice write up for the game, cha. I always enjoy and appreciate what you bring to the table. 🙂

  5. Big Mike

    Outstanding stuff as always cha.
    Jags 24, Hawks 16

  6. McZ

    Every week, Geno will have time. Every week, he didn’t.
    Dawuane Swoot and Josh Allen will eat this crap line alive.

    • cha

      He has time.

      Only 7 starting QBs have had more time in the pocket on average than Geno so far.

      Here’s some who’ve had LESS time:

      Derek Carr
      Dak Prescott
      Daniel Jones
      Teddy Bridgewater
      Matt Ryan
      Baker Mayfield
      Trevor Lawrence
      Zach Wilson
      Kyler Murray
      Tom Brady
      Matt Stafford
      Joe Burrow
      Mac Jones
      Jared Goff
      Justin Herbert
      Kirk Cousins
      Ryan Tannehill
      Jimmy G
      Justin Fields
      Patrick Mahomes
      Aaron Rodgers
      Russell Wilson
      Tua T
      Ben Roethlisberger
      Davis Mills

  7. Tomas

    Jags 30
    Hawks 13

  8. God of Thunder

    Very good piece Cha, thanks for taking the time to write this up.

  9. AlaskaHawk

    Thanks for the write up Cha. It should be easy to see if they take your advice and use the tight ends more. I think that would have helped in the last game too since Geno is more comfortable with short passes.

    I’m prepared to enjoy the Seahawks average efforts without being overly negative about what might have been.

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