The questions surrounding the Seattle Seahawks this week are largely the same questions from last week … and from the week before that.
The Seahawks offense is in shambles. Russell Wilson isn’t himself. We dive into those issues and more in our weekly Four Downs segment with Bob Condotta and Adam Jude:
1. What has been the most surprising aspect of Russell Wilson’s struggles the past three weeks?
Jude: Wilson’s issues are difficult to fathom. It’s difficult to watch and difficult to comprehend — for all of us, isn’t it? It certainly sounds like it is for Pete Carroll, who has repeatedly said that he can’t pinpoint the root of Wilson’s problems. And that’s a separate problem, isn’t it — that they can’t figure out why it’s not all working? Given Wilson’s Hall of Fame track record, the consistent nature of his struggles is what is most alarming over the past three weeks. We’ve never seen him miss so many easy throws. We’ve never seen him so spooked by the pass rush. We’ve never seen him lack confidence and conviction in his reads and in his throws. It all adds up to the kind of season we’ve never seen from Wilson, either, and there isn’t much reason to expect it to suddenly get better anytime soon.
Condotta: Wilson has just seemed uncommonly tentative at times, which is not like him. But at other times, he’s also seemed to just lock into things, also not really like him. One example Monday night was a third-down incompletion to rookie Dee Eskridge when Wilson had DK Metcalf in man coverage and never appeared to look that way. Wilson did, at least, look like his old self on the final drive, and maybe there’s something to build on there (though the interception on the two-point play obviously taints it). But Carroll said Tuesday there is hope to be found in that drive and that he will show it to the team this week “to show these guys what they are capable of.”
2. Here’s what tight end Gerald Everett said when asked about his star QB after the game: “We’ve struggled with protection and the whole league knows that.” What do you make of that?
Condotta: For what it’s worth, Carroll disagreed with this assessment after the game, saying, “We all have to do better. I feel like we pass-protected OK tonight. I thought we protected pretty well. We just didn’t hook it up.” But certainly few would argue that the line can’t do better. One who seemed to particularly struggle Monday night was center Ethan Pocic, who was judged as giving up six pressures on 35 pass rush snaps. Guards Kyle Fuller and Gabe Jackson gave up four and three, respectively, as WFT’s tackles had their way with the interior of Seattle’s line. Tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell gave up one and zero, respectively. But it makes sense that Seattle might struggle some without starting left guard Damien Lewis able to play, with Fuller as his replacement.
Jude: First, I appreciate Everett’s candor. And it’s worth noting that he’s not solely pointing the finger at the offensive line — he said “we,” which I interpret to mean he’s being accountable there too. He’s a pass-catching tight end first, but he obviously has blocking responsibilities too — and the overall protection has not been good enough this season. Which, hey, that’s nothing new for Wilson, right? Has he ever had an elite offensive line to protect him? Remember, it was Wilson who went public last winter complaining that he’s been hit too much in his career. He was right then, and nothing has really changed since. What has changed is Wilson’s response to the pass rush. He’s never looked this uncomfortable, this uncertain in the pocket, and maybe that’s understandable given the manner in which he was injured against the Rams. Eventually, I suppose, all those hits and all those hurries take a toll on any QB. But as Wilson showed on his final touchdown pass to Freddie Swain, we know he’s capable of stepping up and finding small openings in the pocket. Too often lately, he’s been overwhelmed and overthinking the plays.
3. So where do the Seahawks go on offense from here? What can they do?
Jude: Is Marshawn Lynch available? Kidding. (Mostly.) Just about everything has gone sideways for the offense. Wilson’s erratic play is most glaring, but the offensive line and the run game need to be much, much better. There does remain one simple solution: Get DK Metcalf involved. It’s just so obvious, isn’t it? Wilson explained that a number of plays were called specifically for Metcalf on Monday night, but Metcalf ended up being double-covered. To which I would respond: So what? Metcalf is good enough to beat any coverage, and Wilson is too quick to look away from his best receiver lately. Get DK the ball.
Condotta: Logically, it’s too late for significant change. The personnel pretty much is what it is at this point and this is a mostly player-driven league — scheme only goes so far. But yes, get the ball to Metcalf more. Try somehow to get some easy completions early in games just to get the offense feeling good about itself. Maybe throw in a few more trick plays — at this point, why not? But with Seattle already on a short week before a game against a 49ers team Sunday that is suddenly surging, there’s only so much altering of anything that can be done now.
4. Seattle’s defense was solid again Monday night … and it still wasn’t enough. What more can it do?
Condotta: The Seahawks need to get more pressure off the edge. They had only one sack in the game and two quarterback hits, though PFF had the Seahawks with 18 overall pressures, led by the three each of Taylor and L.J. Collier (remember him?). Collier’s three hurries led the Seahawks. But Seattle has to turn more of that into sacks. The fourth down that WFT converted on the final drive before the one that it did not convert was an example of a quarterback simply having too much time. True, Seattle made the next fourth-down stop and got the ball back and almost pulled it off. And true, it’s asking so much of the defense right now to make up for the offense’s shortcomings. Seattle is pretty masterfully handling the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy Carroll prefers, having held its last five opponents to a combined 74 points. While Seattle is still allowing a lot of yards — 399 a game, last in the NFL — the points allowed are more than good enough to win with.
Jude: There are always going to be things to nitpick, but the defense again deserves credit for keeping this one close. At some point, the defense will need take more risks instead of sitting back in soft zone coverage — risks it might need to take to create more takeaways because the Seahawks offense isn’t getting the job done. But, again, that’s nitpicky. Overall, you have to like what you’re seeing out of the defense. Jamal Adams has been playing up to his contract of late. Quandre Diggs continues to show he’s worthy of a new contract. Jordyn Brooks looks more and more like a solid first-round pick. Darrell Taylor is a legitimate force off the edge. All good things in a season with little good is happening elsewhere.