RENTON — So here the Seahawks are, without Russell Wilson for the first time in a decade, and with a 2-2 record — the same record they had after four games in five of Wilson’s 10 years with the team.
The Wilson-era’s 2-2 starts usually were viewed as disappointing, but this one is mildly surprising, illustrating that there may be life after Russ.
Thanks to the 17-game schedule, four games no longer marks an exact quarter of the season — it is, instead, 23.5%.
But that’s close enough for us, as we present our first quarterly report card of the year and hand out a few awards.
Geno Smith has been everything the Seahawks could have envisioned and more. Of all his impressive stats — such as a 77.3% completion percentage that is the best in NFL history through four games — an interception percentage of just 1.5%, and 1.3% for his seven starts, may be as important as any. Russell Wilson, famously careful with the ball, has a 1.8% interception rate for his career, fifth-best in NFL history. One question about Smith was whether he could avoid costly turnovers. He mostly has (one of his two picks was the last-play last-gasp pass against Atlanta).
Finally given some room to run, Rashaad Penny has picked up where he left off last season, and the Seahawks in the last two games have gone from having the NFL’s worst rushing attack to 13th this week. Rookie Kenneth Walker III has shown promising signs, and that he’s still learning. Depth is an issue, with Travis Homer out at least three more games because of a rib injury. Penny and Walker took all but three snaps in the backfield Sunday. That might be hard to sustain.
Here’s another reason for Smith’s high completion percentage — his receivers are catching almost every pass thrown their way. The Seahawks have just one drop — by DK Metcalf — according to Pro Football Reference, two fewer than any other team (the Jets lead the NFL with 17). Tyler Lockett is on pace for 115 catches — which would blow away his team record of 100 set two years ago — and 1,284 yards, which would be a career high, and Metcalf on pace for 98 receptions (his career best is 83) and 1,207 yards. But they’d better stay healthy — the remaining four wide receivers have combined for eight catches for 84 yards.
And how is this for passing-game contribution? Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant have combined to average seven catches for 72 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game. And the three have combined to catch all but two targets. The production of Dissly and Parkinson (12 and six catches for 116 and 115 yards, respectively) has come at the expense of Fant (10-56). Expect more big plays from Fant going forward.
The line has shown steady improvement since Week 1, which was to be expected given rookies at both tackle spots. We’ll find out soon enough how much of that is due to playing lesser defenses the past two weeks. The real revelation has been right tackle Abraham Lucas, a third-round draft pick rated as the best rookie tackle this week by Pro Football Focus (left tackle Charles Cross, the No. 9 overall pick, is fifth). More consistency and fewer penalties are needed. But lots of positives.
The Seahawks’ run defense is lagging far behind last year’s — 5.1 yards per carry allowed compared with 3.8 — and they have just seven sacks. That’s not all on the line, of course, but that’s where it starts. This is a veteran group, especially in the interior, that needs to play better.
Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu has been the best player on the Seahawks’ front, leading it with two sacks and seven QB hits. Third-year player Darrell Taylor has struggled and is mostly playing on passing downs. And the hope that inside linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton could make everyone forget Bobby Wagner hasn’t happened. Brooks ranks 62nd out of 81 linebackers this week from Pro Football Focus and Barton 76th. Pass coverage remains a huge issue — via PFR, Brooks is allowing the highest passer rating on the team, 139.6, and Barton has allowed all 14 passes he’s been targeted with to be completed for a rating of 110.1.
Two positives here — the emergence of rookie Tariq Woolen at right corner, who has the team’s two interceptions, and the steady play of veteran safety Quandre Diggs. Rookie nickel Coby Bryant has shown some big-play potential. But there have been far too many missed tackles and blown assignments, and the Seahawks are still searching for the right combinations. No matter what you think of the trade to get him, the season-ending injury to safety Jamal Adams in Week 1 derailed much of the defensive plans.
Kicker Jason Myers has been good (6 of 7 on field-goal attempts, with the one miss not totally his fault), punter Michael Dickson is usually solid self and the coverage units fine. And Woolen blocked a kick for a TD. But there have been a few costly mistakes, with two fumbles on punts leading to opponent touchdowns. And the Seahawks have just seven punt-return yards, fewest in the NFL, though forcing just seven punts hasn’t helped.
QB Geno Smith
There’s no one even close to Smith for this award, and if he keeps this up he could find himself on the list for the NFL award.
Rookie of the Year
CB Tariq Woolen
Lucas and Cross have been good. But Woolen, a fifth-rounder, already looks like a long-term lockdown corner, ala Richard Sherman.
The big question
Can the defense turn it around?
The Seahawks are basing some of their optimism for the rest of the season in the hope that the defense can rebound from a slow start similarly to how it did the past two years. In 2020, the addition of Carlos Dunlap at midseason helped spur a turnaround. Last year, the Seahawks revamped their cornerback positions after the first month of the season. Is there another drastic move in store?