As we do from time to time, prior to each Minnesota Vikings game we sit down with the folks from the SB Nation website of the opponent for the week and ask some questions of them. This week, Mookie Alexander from Field Gulls, SB Nation’s home for the Seattle Seahawks, and I exchanged some questions about our respective teams. Here are the questions I asked him, along with his answers. When he posts my answers to his questions, they will be linked here and on the main page.
1) I’m going to come off sounding like a mark for asking this, but honestly. . .what’s it like getting to watch Russell Wilson every week? The guy is deservedly on the shortlist of MVP candidates through the first four weeks of the season and just continues to get it done.
It is one of the best things to watch in sports. Watching Wilson regularly tear apart defenses has been the most enjoyable weekly sports viewing experience of my life. It didn’t always start that way and I was one of the skeptics after those first few games of his rookie season, but then he led the team to comeback wins over the Patriots and Bears and the rest is history. What has made Wilson particularly incredible is the evolution of his game. Early Wilson was a phenomenal rushing threat who could improvise something out of nothing while still being a very accurate passer. Current Wilson has lost his top-end speed but remains a smart scrambler who can extend plays with his legs and he’s a better pocket passer than ever before. It’s not just completing passes in the pocket that you have to pay attention to, but rather his vastly improved footwork within the pocket and the removal of his horrible habit of spinning into disaster. That Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer have “unleashed” Russ in a pass-first offense and he’s (thus far) flourishing is a credit to the coaching staff for going against their preferred style of football and a credit to Wilson for reaching a level of play to be capable of mastering this offense. He’s been a top-10 QB for a long time and then eventually top-5, and he has established himself as at least top-3.
2) Statistically, the Seahawks look a little rough on defense this season, particularly against the pass where they rank dead last in yards allowed. Is the Seattle secondary really that bad, or do you think this is a function of the Seahawks having been involved in a lot of shootouts so far in 2020?
The secondary has been banged up and bad, plus the pass rush is not helping. Seattle is really struggling to generate pressure with four guys, which makes it harder for a secondary that has otherwise been sub-par. Shaquill Griffin did get back on track against the Dolphins but his start to his contract year has otherwise been disappointing. Jamal Adams, as great as he has been in different facets of the Seahawks defense, got picked on by Cam Newton and Julian Edelman in the Patriots game. Quandre Diggs has been fairly reliable as the free safety and we thank Matt Patricia for being such a terrible coach and sending him Seattle’s way. Where the weakest spot has been is at RCB. Tre Flowers could not be playing any worse at the moment and it’s hard to see how he gets better. He’s just too foot-slow, he takes forever to get his hips turned, and he does not have good ball skills so usually throwing his way in 2020 has been an auto-completion. If Quinton Dunbar cannot play because of injury again, then Kirk Cousins may have a field day with Flowers out there. It’s disappointing to even type this up because Seattle’s secondary has been a total shell of its former self. I didn’t expect Legion of Boom 2.0 but this year has been the Legion of Room.
3) The Seahawks gave up a ton for former Jets’ safety Jamal Adams this offseason, and he appears to have been as advertised, including somehow leading the Seahawks in sacks after four games. However, he has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game. How will that affect what the Seahawks will do defensively?
Well one of the things that immediately changed with Adams out was the reduction in blitzes. The Seahawks know Adams is tremendous getting after the quarterback and as such Ken Norton Jr has dialed up more blitzes than we normally see out of any Pete Carroll defense. A lot of this is because the four-man front just isn’t getting it done, but they got Adams to both improve the run defense as a box safety and to produce pressure off of his rushes on the outside. Seattle scarcely blitzed the Dolphins on Sunday and I expect them to continue to play it conservatively against Minnesota to prevent the big play. Ryan Neal did a solid job of taking his spot last week and recorded another interception, but he ain’t a two-time All-Pro safety and Adams is, so this is still a considerable blow to Seattle’s defense.
4) Give us one player on each side of the ball that Vikings fans may not be familiar with that you feel will play a big role in the outcome of this week’s game.
On offense I’d go with David Moore. He’s the de facto third receiver below Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the depth chart. Moore burst onto the scene in 2018 as a preseason star and then he replaced a washed up Brandon Marshall midseason. He had an immediate impact and racked up four touchdowns in three weeks. Unfortunately he was also a low-percentage option and had a roughly 50% catch rate entering this season, so he was considered a potential cut candidate after the Philip Dorsett signing and the drafting of Freddie Swain. Moore restructured his contract before the start of this season and he’s turned in 10 catches on 11 targets for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s at his best when in the open field and he has a knack for winning “above the rim” in 1-on-1 situations. This year looks to be a genuine leap in quality of play from him and it’s considerably helped this passing game function.
Defensively I think you have to look at nickel back Ugo Amadi. Amadi is a second-year DB out of Oregon who was mostly on Special Teams as a rookie but with the season-ending injury to Marquise Blair, Amadi has stepped up to the plate and been essentially the only consistently positive performer in the secondary and that even includes Jamal Adams. I think most Seahawks fans would agree that he has been the surprise of the defense and for positive reasons. He can close quickly to the ball-carrier both against the run and against the pass, plus he has recorded four passes defensed in his last two games. Seattle had serious question marks at the nickel position dating back to last year’s debacle, but Amadi has made tremendous strides and is someone who could play a major role in determining the outcome of this matchup.
5) The Seahawks are one of just two undefeated teams in the NFC after the first four weeks and are on top of what might be the best division in the NFL. So, I’ll just ask the question, point-blank: Are the Seattle Seahawks the best team in the NFC?
I’ll be a total homer and say yes, but with the caveat there’s really no great overall team in the NFC at the moment. I suppose Tampa Bay is the most balanced squad and they entered this week #1 in overall DVOA, but they lost to Chicago and Tom Brady forgot how many downs there are in a gamel. At this point it’s possible he forgets how to play football entirely by next week and the wheels fall off for him and the entire Buccaneers team. Anyway, I think it’s between Seattle and Green Bay as far as being considered top of the conference. Both of those teams have elite offenses that can largely erase their defensive weaknesses, but the Seahawks’ special teams is the best it has been in at least five years so really it’s just the pass defense that is a serious worry the rest of the way.
Once again, thanks to Mookie for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions about Sunday’s game. Be sure to check out Field Gulls for more of the Seattle perspective on this weekend’s contest!