The tailback spot and third-down conversions are other topics in our latest mailbag.

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Is Tedric Thompson the future at free safety for the Seahawks? What happens to the tailback spot when J.D. McKissic comes back?

Those questions and more in our latest Seahawks mailbag.

A: I’m not sure the Seahawks think they have to do anything other than what it has been doing — using Tedric Thompson, who is in his second season and first as a starter.

Thompson isn’t playing to Earl Thomas’ level, but few could. That’s always going to be an unfair expectation that Thompson is going to have to bear.

But coach Pete Carroll seems happy enough with Thompson. And if you put stock into what the analysts at Pro Football Focus say, Thompson hasn’t been too bad.

After Seattle’s 27-24 win over Green Bay, PFF’s season grades had Thompson as the fourth-highest of the Seahawks’ defensive players. Bobby Wagner is first at 90.4, followed by Bradley McDougald at 77.8, Frank Clark at 70.2 and Thompson at 67.6. Jarran Reed is fifth at 66.6 (if you’re curious how PFF compiles its grades, check here).

According to PFF, Thompson is among the best safeties in the NFL at what Carroll considers a key stat — yards allowed per coverage snap. Any stat not compiled by the team’s coaches comes with the caveat that we’re guessing or assuming we know who was responsible for what on each play. But the way PFF has viewed it, Thompson has allowed just .20 yards per coverage snap, which is 10th best of 95 NFL safeties with enough snaps to be graded.

Seattle has faced three really good QBs the last three weeks — Jared Goff, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers. While Seattle went just 1-2 in those games and had a few defensive breakdowns in each, allowing a combined passer rating of 116.0, the Seahawks could have won all three.

For the season, the Seahawks are allowing a passer rating of 92.3, 14th in the NFL entering Sunday’s games. As a sign of how passer ratings continue to climb, Seattle was sixth in the NFL in passer rating allowed at 79.6 in 2015, the last season that all of the Legion of Boom was available for most of the season (Kam Chancellor missed five games that year, but Richard Sherman and Thomas played all 16). That total would lead the NFL this year (Chicago was number one entering the weekend at 79.8). The game is changing so rapidly in favor of offenses, and passing in particular, that using numbers to compare eras is trickier than ever.

So if Seattle’s defensive numbers this year aren’t where they were a few years ago, that would be expected given the personnel turnover and the changing nature of the game.

The most critical question for the Seahawks is whether Thompson is good enough to win with. So far, there have been some promising signs. But the final six games will tell a lot about where everything is headed with this team.

The best-case scenario for Seattle is that Thompson continues to improve and show that he can team with Bradley McDougald to be a more-than-adequate safety tandem. Thompson is under contact for two more years at cheap rookie-contract salaries ($645,000 and $735,000 in 2019 and 2020), and McDougald is also under contract through 2020.

The Seahawks will have plenty of cap space in the offseason to address needs. According to OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks will have an effective cap space in 2019 of almost $55 million, 10th-most in the NFL.

What Seattle may not have much of is draft picks. At the moment, the Seahawks have just four in 2019 (no second-, sixth- or seventh-round picks because of the Duane Brown, Brett Hundley and Shalom Luani trades).


A: I thought this was going to happen on Thursday, but Penny sprained his ankle on his first carry of the day, a 30-yarder, and had to miss time to get it treated. He also looked a little slower after the injury. He had 16 yards on seven carries after he was hurt to finish with 46 on eight.

The team has made it clear that Chris Carson is the starter. But I think Penny will continue to rotate in. On Thursday, he entered the game on the third series. He came back in midway through the fourth series after having his ankle treated. The Seahawks have said they’ll continue to go with the “hot hand” at tailback. But it’s also pretty clear that Carson and Penny are the two tailbacks to use in the base offense with Mike Davis being used mostly as a third-down/two-minute back.

Seattle’s tailbacks had 29 carries against the Packers — Carson 17, Penny eight and Davis four. Maybe a couple more for Penny and a couple less for Carson in games going forward would make some sense. But you also have to run it well to be able to run it a lot.

Seattle is averaging 27.3 carries per game from its tailbacks, which is a lot. The Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing attempts at 323 heading into Sunday’s games. So there should be chances for all three of Seattle’s tailbacks.


A: Dec. 10 against Minnesota. Kendricks was able to return to the team Friday, and he can only practice with the Seahawks the next two weeks.


A: There was some talk of this earlier in the season when Doug Baldwin was injured and missed two games. But we never really saw it happen. And with just six games remaining, I don’t think they’ll make a move now.

The bigger question with Prosise may be where he fits in at all. J.D. McKissic is due to return from the IR this week (he can practice for three weeks before he has to be activated to the 53-man roster or placed back on IR). If/when McKissic is cleared and healthy, the Seahawks will have to decide if it wants to carry five tailbacks or release one, with Prosise being the obvious candidate.

Carroll talked about the tailback situation on Friday, and it’s going to get complicated with McKissic back.

As I wrote then, there are some contractual situations in this that will also come into play. Specifically, that Seattle might still be hoping it can keep both players around. Prosise is in the third season of his four-year rookie contract, making $660,000 this season and $745,000 next year. He would almost certainly be claimed if he were waived. McKissic will be a restricted free agent following the 2018 season. If Seattle doesn’t want to keep five tailbacks on its roster it could just keep McKissic on IR.


A: Third downs are obviously key, and Seattle has had some games where third downs have not gone so well: the 0-10 effort at Arizona and 2-12 in the loss at Denver. It was 4-15 and 2-9 in the losses against the Chargers and Rams (the Seahawks went 3-3 on fourth downs against the Chargers).

But in other games it hasn’t been so bad. The Seahawks have converted 40 percent or better on third downs in five of the last eight games and had a great three-game stretch against the Rams, Raiders and Lions when they were a combined 22 of 37 on third down.

And statistically, Wilson has been pretty good on third down

He entered the weekend with the seventh-highest passer rating on third downs, going 41 of 72 for 536 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, a rating of 106.0, which is just off the 110.2 rating he has for the season.

Wilson was not great early on third downs against Green Bay. He started out 0-4, all in the first quarter. But after that it was pretty good as Seattle converted 6 of 11 third downs in the final three quarters, with one of the non-conversions a kneeldown on the final play of the game. He hit two huge third downs on the final drive — an 18-yard pass to Tyler Lockett on third-and-three from the 32 and the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard pass to Ed Dickson on third-and-nine.

So I’m not sure you can make a case that third-down play calling has been a weakness. It could be better, no question, like just about everything can be for a team that is 5-5.

But for some perspective, Seattle’s 37.8 percent conversion rate is better than the 37.3 of the 2013 Super Bowl team.