Kenneth Arthur is the managing editor and the
12th writer Writer Numero Uno for the SB Nation Seattle Seahawks site, Field Gulls. With a huge Monday Night game against the Vikings coming up, and playoff fortunes hanging in the balance for both teams, we wanted to get an in depth look at our opponent from a guy that covers them on a daily basis. As is usually the case, I asked some pretty lame questions, but Kenneth made me look really good by providing us some very insightful answers.
So without further delay, let’s take a look at this week’s opponent, thanks to Kenneth and the fine folks at Field Gulls.
DN: Seattle started the season 0-2, then 2-3, then 4-5. Now they’re 7-5 and on a three game winning streak. The five losses are all within one score, though, so 7-5 could be just as easily be 10-2. Is there a pattern in the close losses that has developed, something that the Vikings may be able to exploit if it’s a close game at the end?
FG: ”Seahawks” and “close games” are the name of the game since basically mid-2011. Seattle had an NFL-record streak of either losing or not losing by more than a touchdown that went on for like four years until a blowout loss to the Packers and that includes the playoffs. They just had a good run of scratching back into games that they were losing by a lot, and either winning those or losing by a touchdown or less. When they were a very good-to-great team that resulted in more wins, but in the last couple of years they haven’t been good enough to get Ws out of those games as often as they’d like.
That’s the case in 2018 when they just don’t have a very solid defense and so they couldn’t keep opponents from driving down the field when they needed to, as was the case against the Broncos in Week 1 (Demaryius Thomas touchdown in the final quarter), Rams at home (blew a 31-24 lead in the fourth quarter), and Rams on the road (had a 1-point lead going into the fourth quarter and were within two points late until LA reeled off a quick 10 points mid-fourth). They also had Russell Wilson throw pick-sixes against the Bears and Chargers in the fourth quarter that sealed those games only to score touchdowns late that kept it close. At the end of the day, the Seahawks have lost five games to four teams who are all ranked in the top-7 of DVOA at FootballOutsiders and all of those games are decided by 8 points or less.
On the other hand, they’ve only managed tight wins over the Cardinals, Packers, and Panthers, all three of whom will definitely or could miss the playoffs. Seattle is not the dominant team they once were but they are difficult to put away. They’re also more susceptible to close games perhaps because of their run-first approach and wanting to win time of possession, control the ball, and hope/wait for the other team to turn it over, winning games that they can grind out rather than trying to win a shootout. If there’s a way to “exploit” it I’m not sure other than to have a lead late and hope that Wilson throws a pick-six, but these were I think only the second and third of his career. It’s not the norm for him and he’s only thrown two interceptions (vs 24 touchdowns) over the last 10 games. The Seahawks defense isn’t great though so I imagine Kirk Cousins and company can move the ball.
DN: One of the all-time great defenses, the Legion of Boom, has been dismantled. The new defense, nickname TBD, isn’t terrible by any means, but they’re not the dominating force they once were. Do they have an identity yet? If so, what is it? What’s the strength of the unit now?
FG: The strength is Bradley McDougald, the strong safety veteran who is pretty much the only one creating turnovers at this point and setting the tone for a very young secondary around him. McDougald was a steal in 2017 on a one-year contract and even more of a steal on the three-year contract he signed in 2018. He’s not as dominant as Kam Chancellor but he’s sneakily been one of the top strong safeties in the league, which is important because the rest of the unit is a mixed bag of inconsistent-to-highly questionable.
Rookie Tre Flowers is either the second-best player on the secondary if not the guy with the brightest future. He was a safety at Oklahoma State and a fifth round pick who has quickly developed into a relatively solid cover corner and a player who I think can develop big playmaking opportunities in the coming years. I’m sure that Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen could give him trouble as the top WR tandem in the league but Flowers is an exciting player to watch develop. He’s got outstanding length and athleticism and is the guy they see as the future to build around after Richard Sherman.
Shaquill Griffin is solid but he hasn’t been as spectacular in year two as he was as a rookie. He’s exploitable. Tedric Thompson is a second-year free safety starting in place of the injured Earl Thomas and he’s absolutely exploitable. Seems a lot of big plays have gotten behind him. The pass defense just is not very good without Thomas and giving him the franchise tag has to be a consideration, even if he would refuse to sign it. Justin Coleman is the slot corner and he’s a pretty good player there by all accounts, but not shutdown or anything, as far as I know. It’s a secondary with a good strong safety, some potential at corner, and a big need at free safety. Delano Hill has been getting a lot of snaps lately and he’s a safety also drafted in 2017 around the same point as Griffin and Thompson.
DN: If you believe the ex-members of the Legion of Boom, one of the reasons they left/were shown the door is because of discontent with QB Russell Wilson in some manner, and that Pete Carroll’s message had grown stale. It seemed to have an air of truth, as Seattle slipped to 9-7 last year after five straight seasons of 10 or more victories, two Super Bowl appearances, and a Super Bowl championship. True or not, that’s the perception a lot of non-Seattle fans have, so for those of us that don’t follow the Seahawks regularly, was that really a thing, or was it overblown? If there was a thing between Wilson and other players, has that been taken care of, and has the team moved past it?
FG: Dumb media stuff to pass the time in the offseason, albeit media stuff driven mostly by Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and some unusually vocal players they had from 2011-2017. Truthfully, Wilson should be held to a higher standard in Seattle and should be treated differently, as any franchise quarterback would be. He’s incredible and this season proves it even more, not that he needed a prove it season. With a new offensive coordinator, Wilson is on pace to set new career highs and is just really honing in on something special right now just as he did in 2015. If there was a problem in the locker room, it was Sherman. It was Bennett. It was players who thought they were bigger than the team maybe, I don’t know. Sherman just came to Seattle with the 49ers and the Seahawks won by 27. Sherman saw first hand some of those touchdowns (four by Wilson) come down after basically giving Wilson no love in the pre-game pressers.
I have no problem with that. The NFL is more WWE than they want to admit, or at least, Sherman is 100% a “WWE” type player, and we like it. It’s one of the things that was fun about him when he was in Seattle. But the reality is that the Seahawks went 9-7 and everyone acted like it was a disaster. Pardon the chatspeak, but lol. 9-7 with a missed 48-yard field goal on the final play of the season from being 10-6. And that’s a disaster. Tells me that if that season is a disaster, the Seahawks were seen as being quite good and everyone was hoping for the other shoe to drop. It really didn’t and the biggest reasons for that are: Pete Carroll, Bobby Wagner, and Wilson.
They’re not as good without Sherman, but they’re getting by. They wouldn’t without Wilson.
DN: Speaking of Wilson, his game has gotten better and better each year, especially as a passer. He’s become a complete quarterback, and seems to be equally dangerous as a runner and a thrower. His completion percentage is up a full five points from last year, he’s on pace to throw for more TD’s than his personal best of 34, and he’s still a thoroughly dangerous man running the ball. Stopping him seems like more bravado than reality, but is there a key the Vikings can do to limit him somewhat?
FG: I don’t think Wilson as a passer has changed all that much. He was a great pocket passer prior to 2018. He was a great deep passer prior to 2018. He was a great play action passer prior to 2018. He struggled with some overthrows prior to 2018. He missed/didn’t recognize wide open receivers prior to 2018. He struggled to know what to do when the pocket collapses prior to 2018 and would hold onto the ball for too long and take a bad sack. I’ve watched Wilson for seven years and he’s done minor improvements along the way, of course he’s much better than he was in 2012-2013 or whatever, but I don’t think overall he’s much different.
Look at what he did in the final seven games of 2015. He was UNREAL. I think the difference is that because Brian Schottenheimer has called so many fewer designed runs, people are now more focused on his passing. He is throwing touchdowns-to-pass attempts at a historic rate but touchdowns are kind of a wonky variable that doesn’t mean a ton to me, even though it’s very cool.
I do think that Doug Baldwin is still great when healthy and Tyler Lockett is hitting peak Tyler Lockett right now, but one big difference is David Moore over some of his priors like Paul Richardson or Jermaine Kearse. Moore could be developing into an incredible WR in the coming years. Watch out for him. So right now Wilson might have his best 1-2-3 at WR that he’s ever had, while Jaron Brown is a solid WR4 with five touchdowns already. The weapons and protection might be upgraded a bit, so that helps. Wanna stop him? I guess get pressure on him, interior pressure, force him into bad decisions, and get a lead early that might force Seattle off of running the ball or out of rhythm offensively.
DN: Is it just me, or would it be awesome to see Sebastian Janikowski trot out to kick a fg puffing on a Marlboro, flick it to the ground next to him when he sets up, kick the ball, pick up the heater without looking and take three puffs as he’s walking to the sideline as the ball splits the uprights on a 53 yarder? He could even do it against the Vikings and it would still be awesome.
FG: Yeah, I’m for it. Janikowski has been a welcome upgrade over Blair Walsh, who single-footedly ruined some end-of-games last year, as noted. Watch out for rookie punter Michael Dickson, who will kick a dropkick field goal before his career is over, I guarantee it.
DN: PS: The Daily Norseman would like to extend our condolences to the Seahawks and their fans on the passing of owner Paul Allen. He kept your team in Seattle, built a wonderful facility, and put a winner on the field. As a fan, you can’t ask for more than that.
FG: Thanks. He was the best owner we could have hoped for, won’t be another like him.
Thanks again to Kenneth, and make sure you go check out Field Gulls to get all the inside info as we lead up to the Monday Night game against Seattle, and be sure to follow Kenneth and FG on Twitter. Arthur’s handle is @KennethArthuRS and Field Gulls can be found on the Perpetual Outrage Machine here: @FIeldGulls.