Bob Condotta hands out grades after the first quarter of the Seahawks season. Is there cause for concern with an offense that appears to have found its way after a slow start? Can the defense keep up its torrid pace?
You don’t have “Win Forever” as one of your core philosophies and stand totally happy with a 3-1 record in the first quarter of the season.
But given where things were after Week 2 — one win, one touchdown scored, one banged-up quarterback — and 3-1 doesn’t sound so bad.
“We’re excited about turning the corner and going to the second quarter,” Carroll said after Sunday’s 27-17 win over the New York Jets. “We’re ready to do this.”
The Seahawks will wait a week, though, taking Sunday off for their bye.
As they head into their week off, let’s look back and hand out a few awards.
MVP: QB Russell Wilson. Jimmy Graham has been outstanding the last two games, Christine Michael has gone from revelation to consistent – which is about the highest praise you can get in the NFL — and Doug Baldwin has remained a rock of dependability. But despite suffering two injuries in three games, and missing a snap due to injury for the first time in his career, Wilson is on pace to set a team record in passing yards while also on pace for the lowest interception ratio of his career. And he led a fourth-quarter drive to win the Miami game.
Unsung hero: C Justin Britt. Maybe this should go to Michael, given the way he has stepped in for Thomas Rawls. Britt, meanwhile, has helped stabilize the biggest question mark on the team, an offensive line that has been serviceable enough against some tough defensive fronts.
Key stat: The Seahawks have attempted passes on 57.2 percent of plays (142 of 262), the highest since Pete Carroll’s first season as coach in 2010 (61.2 percent). Seattle started to shift to more passing late last season (when the Seahawks finished with a 53.3 percent rate of passing to running) and the injuries to Wilson and Rawls and emergence of Graham seem to have tilted it more. Still, that ranks just 23rd in the NFL so it’s not fair yet to say Seattle has joined the ranks of the pass-first teams.
Key question: Can the Seahawks get the running game going the rest of the year? If there’s a cause for concern, it’s a running game averaging 3.3 yards per attempt — far below the 4.5 of last season. More than the line, though, the biggest reason is the lack of running by Wilson, who has just 28 yards on 15 carries, a 1.9 yard-per-carry average. He’s averaged 5.9 in his career before this season. As Wilson gets healthier and the Seahawks play some softer defensive lines, the running numbers should improve. But if not…
Grade: B. The offense was at about a D level the first two games but has found its footing the last two weeks.
MVP: MLB Bobby Wagner. There are no shortage of deserving candidates. But you can give Wagner as much credit as anyone for the way the front seven has played so far, especially against the run, holding opponents to 3.3 yards per carry and making the likes of Todd Gurley and Matt Forte almost non-factors. “He’s just on it,” Carroll said this week. “He calls all the signals, makes all the calls up front.”
Unsung hero: CB DeShawn Shead. He has held up just fine in his first full season as the other starting cornerback. According to RealFootballNetwork.com, Shead is tied for the second-lowest completion percentage of passes thrown his way (7 of 18, 38.9 percent. Richard Sherman is fourth at 40 percent).
Key stat: The Seahawks have given up just 22 points overall in the first three quarters, including just one touchdown.
Key question: Can the defense keep up its torrid pace against better offenses the next few weeks? The Seahawks have played three teams ranked in the bottom eight in offense (49ers, Rams, Dolphins) with the Jets 13th. That will change soon with the next three ranked in the top seven — Atlanta (first), Arizona (seventh) and New Orleans (fifth).
Grade: A. You could quibble about the lack of turnovers but the last two weeks indicate those are starting to come.
MVP: Cassius Marsh. Marsh’s blocked field goal in the fourth quarter against Miami is maybe the biggest special teams play so far, and he also leads the team with three tackles in coverage.
Unsung hero: P Jon Ryan and PK Steven Hauschka have each been their usual steady selves, which is easy to take for granted, but which is also a mistake.
Key stat: The Seahawks are last in the NFL in kickoff return average at 13.6. Granted, the way the defense has played has meant Seattle has had just five attempts. But it also shows the value of Tyler Lockett, who due in part to careful kicking by opponents and then a sprained knee has yet to have a kickoff return this season after averaging 25.8 on 33 attempts last year, third-best in team history.
Big question: How quickly can Lockett get back to health? Even with a sprained knee, he had a 62-yard punt return against the 49ers and there will inevitably be a game down the road where the Seahawks could use a big return at a key time.
Grade: B. Picking nits, maybe, but field position was a big reason for the loss to the Rams.