It’s halftime of the Seahawks’ 2021 season. Well, sort of.

With the NFL implementing a new 17-game schedule this year, the Seahawks are one half of football away from being exactly halfway through their season. The schedule is not as neat and tidy as it used to be under the old 16-game format, but that’s fitting, isn’t it, for this Seahawks team?


Eight games in, the Seahawks have hardly been a neat and tidy outfit.

It was, at times, an uncomfortable (oof, that defense), unfamiliar (oof, Russell Wilson’s finger) and unusual (oof, three straight losses in prime time) first half for the Seahawks, who at 3-5 are off to their worst eight-game start since 2011.

What happened in the first half of the season? How realistic is it for the Seahawks to get back in playoff contention? To help us look back and look ahead, here’s a midseason version of our Four Downs Q&A with Seahawks beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude:

1. The Seahawks have certainly fallen short of expectations so far. What was the biggest disappointment of the first half? Most pleasant surprise? Team MVP? The unsung hero?

Biggest disappointment?

Condotta: The obvious disappointment is Russell Wilson’s injury. I think we just all assumed he’d never miss a snap for as long as he played. But to choose another, I’d say the inability to win the close ones. Seattle is 0-3 in games decided by three points or less. They were 6-0 combined in such games in 2019-20. Get just one of those and the season looks a lot different right now. Obviously, this stat may have looked different with Wilson — two of the losses occurred with him out.

Jude: The pass rush. The Seahawks know it, and the numbers show it. With good depth, and a nice mix of experience and youth, the pass rush was supposed to be the strength of this defense. Instead, it’s been the greatest weakness. It’s not fair to single out any one individual, but veteran edge rusher Carlos Dunlap has been largely ineffective. He officially has just a half sack in eight games, and he’s frankly looked disinterested for long stretches. The good news? Dunlap is coming off his best and most active game against Jacksonville (one QB hit, two pass breakups), and maybe that will portend a breakthrough second half for him and the rest of the pass rush.

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Pleasant surprise?

Condotta: Tre Brown. Until a rookie plays you really don’t know for sure what you have, no matter how impressive he may be in camp. But Brown looks like the real deal — steady and assured in coverage and tackling — a development that could have some big and positive ramifications the next few years.

Jude: Darrell Taylor. After missing all of the 2020 season recovering from a leg injury, Taylor is essentially a rookie … and a darned good one, too. He has been the steadiest contributor off the edge, injecting a much-needed jolt to the defensive front. He leads the team with four sacks and 11 QB pressures, per Pro Football Reference.

MVP?

Condotta: DK Lockett. Er, Tyler Metcalf. OK, so maybe their individual production has vacillated a little bit week to week. But the two have combined for 1,159 of Seattle’s 1,898 passing yards (Metcalf with 580 is 11th in the NFL and Lockett at 579 is 12th) and have scored half (11) of the team’s 22 TDs, and you can always count on one or the other to be the most consistent offensive weapon each game.

Jude: Quandre Diggs. Where would this defense be without the veteran free safety? Diggs has all three of the Seahawks’ interceptions, and beyond that teammates point to him as a steadying voice in the locker room. Remember, Diggs is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of this season, and his price tag is skyrocketing.

Unsung hero?

Condotta: Alex Collins. Seattle’s running attack the last four games might have been a complete disaster without the presence of Collins, who figures to play a key role the rest of the way.

Jude: Al Woods. It would seem impossible to overlook a guy who is 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, but that just comes with the territory for an interior defensive lineman. Same goes for Poona Ford and Bryan Mone, who have helped Seattle rank as the No. 1 stop-rate defense in the NFL. At age 34, Woods is in the midst of perhaps the best season of his career. He’s playing 52% of the defensive snaps, matching a career high, with 21 tackles, one sack, three QB hits and three pass breakups.

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2. What’s the Seahawks’ biggest key in the second half of the season?

Jude: Keeping Wilson upright. Wilson publicly complained about getting hit so much early in the offseason, and through his first four healthy games this season he was sacked 11 times. That’s too much. The caveat here is many of those sacks are on the QB himself. The offensive line does not deserve blame for all of them, but the line still has work to do — it simply has to be better at protecting Wilson if the Seahawks are going to have the offensive breakthrough they need in the second half.

Condotta: Aside from getting Wilson back, it’s proving that the defensive resurgence of the last three weeks is for real and not just a function of playing some struggling offenses, or in the case of the Saints, in a bad weather game in which both teams seemed to rein in their offenses. Seattle has five games left against teams in the top 17 in the NFL in scoring — Cardinals (twice), Rams, Packers and 49ers — all at 24 points or more per game. Seattle can’t count on winning shootouts in all of those. Seattle also needs the defense to force more turnovers — the Seahawks have gotten eight, including just three interceptions. Only four teams have fewer picks. Seattle needs both sustained consistency and more big plays out of the defense.

3. Who is the team’s most important player for the second half?

Condotta: The obvious answer would again be Wilson. But that feels TOO obvious. So the pick here is safety Jamal Adams. The view here is that he’s played a little better than the general perception may be — he’s third on the team with 55 tackles, which is about where strong safeties typically are in Carroll’s defense (Kam Chancellor was third, second and third in tackles for Seattle during his 2011 to 2013 glory days when he missed just one regular-season game) and second in solo tackles. But what’s obviously been lacking are the big “wow” plays that we saw more often last year and that fans understandably were expecting more of after he signed a contract making him the highest-paid safety in NFL history. Some (most?) of that is because the Seahawks are not using Adams as a rusher as much as they did last year. One way or another — be it the coaches scheming up more ways for Adams to be in position to make big plays or Adams finding ways to make an impact when playing a more conventional safety role — the Seahawks are going to need some game-changing plays to make a run in the second half to get to the playoffs.

Jude: Yes, it’s Russell Wilson — it’s always Russell Wilson — and the fact that it’s always him was accentuated like never before during his first-career stint on the injured list. Outside of Wilson, though, the answer here is DK Metcalf. That seems so obvious, too, considering his stature and talent, but the Seahawks have been sporadic at getting him involved in the offense. Considering the challenge in front of Seattle’s defense in the second half — there are a lot of good offenses they’ll have to face — this Seahawks offense will need to win a few shootouts to keep pace, and there’s no better weapon than Metcalf for that.

4. Give us your prediction: Seahawks will make the playoffs if …

Jude: Never count out Wilson, right? It’s that simple. If he can get back in time for the Green Bay game next week, and if he stays healthy, the Seahawks will turn this thing around and get back into the playoffs.

Condotta: Seattle’s schedule typifies how top-heavy the NFC has been so far — the Seahawks have four games left against teams that are 7-1 (Cardinals, Rams, Packers) and five against teams with three wins or fewer (including the lone remaining AFC team on the sked, 1-7 Houston). Seattle has to sweep the bad teams and win at least one against the good teams just to get to 9-8, which seems the minimum needed to get the final wild-card spot — and that looks like it will be Seattle’s most realistic playoff option. Seattle has typically been a good second-half team under Carroll, so let’s be optimistic and say they can get that done. Whether that’s good enough to get to the playoffs may depend on if the 5-2 Saints can keep winning despite their QB situation, and if Seattle can surpass the 3-4 Vikings, who have the head-to-head tiebreaker. That may be too much to ask. But if Wilson really makes it back for Green Bay then we’ll make the Lambeau Leap of faith that Seattle can get it done.