The offensive line clearly is still and issue, the team still isn’t making the most of Jimmy Graham’s abilities, and there were two unsung defensive heroes — Bobby Wagner and Cliff Avril.
Three observations from the Seahawks’ 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday night at CenturyLink Field:
1. Offensive line
The offensive line is still an issue. No one was dancing around the cold reality staring back at the Seahawks on Monday night.
Not coach Pete Carroll, who said of his offensive line, “It’s not as good as we need it to be.”
Not offensive tackle Russell Okung, who said of his position group, “Right now we’re struggling, but we can get better.”
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Not center Drew Nowak, who talked about assignments and communication, the brick-and-mortar of offensive lines, and said, “That falls on my shoulders. I need to do a better job of that.”
And let’s be clear: The Seahawks’ offensive line — the biggest concern heading into the season — is still just that four games through the season.
The Seahawks allowed six sacks, leaving ESPN analyst and former NFL coach Jon Gruden to say after one play on the broadcast, “Seattle’s in trouble with their pass protection.”
They’ve allowed 18 sacks this season, second-most in the NFL. Nowak struggled with snapping the ball, and the line struggled to give Russell Wilson time to throw or the backs room to run (Seattle backs averaged 3.5 yards per carry).
The blame for the struggles on Monday night fell largely on the shoulders of the offensive line, but it wasn’t their burden to shoulder alone. Wilson had to take at least a little of it, too.
For all the good he did, for all the scrambling and improvising, Wilson also had moments where he could have helped his line.
It is hard to decipher exactly what goes wrong and who’s to blame amid the chaos of any given play, but it’s worth remembering that Wilson has the final say over setting the protection for the line.
Carroll said there were communication issues along the line, and it looked like there was a major breakdown on the blitz that ultimately led to a Wilson fumble that Detroit returned for a touchdown in the second half.
What’s clear after four games is that the offensive line, the way it all works together between the linemen, the quarterback and the skill players, is still an issue.
2. Tight end Jimmy Graham
The Seahawks still need to figure out how to use Graham. If this feels like a repeat, well, that’s because it pretty much is. Every game feels like a referendum on Graham’s usage in Seattle, which isn’t entirely fair. He can’t catch 10 passes every game.
But it’s true that the Seahawks need to get more out of Graham. He had four catches for 29 yards against the Lions. The Seahawks still are searching for the best ways to maximize Graham’s talent.
The Seahawks have yet to consistently take advantage of Graham as a deep threat or down the middle of the field in the seams, although some of that (maybe even a lot of it) has to do with the offensive line.
The Seahawks have talked about incorporating Graham into their offense and not making the offense all about him. But it’s also true that Graham is too valuable to not be a more consistent weapon.
The Seahawks moved Graham around against the Lions, and after the first couple of drives, it seemed like they asked him to block less and sent him out on routes more.
3. Other defensive standouts
The toil of linebacker Bobby Wagner played a big role in how well the defense played. Wagner was a force in stopping the run in the middle of the field, shooting through gaps in the offensive line to disrupt running backs.
Cornerback Cary Williams held his own against star receiver Calvin Johnson.
“He was out there a lot of times by himself making big plays,” Wagner said. “That’s going to show other teams that you can’t just pick on him.”