1. What have the Seahawks done to replace KJ Wright and how has it worked out?
They signed Mychal Kendricks and it was working really well. I wouldn’t say Kendricks is on the Wright level of course, but the drop off was not nearly as severe as I thought it would be. He was a really good player for Seattle. Unfortunately he’s been suspended now. Instead, you will see Austin Colitro, an undrafted free agent, but in reality they just rolled two linebackers against the Rams last week: Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo. Instead, more three-corner sets with Justin Coleman. The Seahawks defense didn’t have a bad game per se, but there were problems stopping Jared Goff and the passing attack and I think the absence of Wright certainly is certainly one of the reasons why.
2. A lot of people were predicting the Seahawks to be pretty bad this year and yet they were a couple of points away from upsetting the best team in football and winning three straight. What area has surprised of late for them few expected?
This is the Seattle team I expected, I have no idea what others were talking about. The Seahawks still have a very successful head coach, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas (at the time, and he was never going to miss a game despite the holdout), Frank Clark, Duane Brown, Shaquill Griffin -- I expected them to be no worse than .500 and all the evidence was there to support that. People focused way too much on the big names they parted with but a lot of those big names didn’t even contribute a full season to the team last year and the team last year was not far off from 11 wins and another playoff run. They’re 2-3 but they’ve been the most injured team in the NFL after the San Francisco 49ers and they’ve had a chance to win every game, including against the Rams, yes.
What surprises people is the play of the offensive line. Brown is a huge upgrade at left tackle over Rees Odhiambo or George Fant, Justin Britt’s a pretty good center. But the major difference has been J.R. Sweezy at left guard and D.J. Fluker at right guard, plus the progress of third-year right tackle Germain Ifedi. All those dudes are way overachieving expectations. It’s a shocking thing to say but given the injuries on Oakland’s side, somehow I think Seattle has the better offensive line going into Sunday.
The other thing would be the play of Bradley McDougald at strong safety. There was a lot of concern about how to replace Kam Chancellor but I think McDougald would have to be a Pro Bowler if the voting happened right now. Will he keep it up? I’m not sure but I’m now very confident in the stability of the position for the next three years.
3. What is the Seahawks weakest area on each side of the ball?
The weakest area on offense is the pass-catching weapons. Doug Baldwin has missed virtually the whole season, rookie tight end Will Dissly went on injured reserve, free agent tight end Ed Dickson has been on NFI, Brandon Marshall has been very bad, free agent signee Jaron Brown has six catches, and there’s not been much help from the backfield from C.J. Prosise or Rashaad Penny, both known for being useful in the receiving game as running backs.
On the bright side, Tyler Lockett’s been outstanding, but only with like 3-5 targets per game. Nick Vannett’s been okay but not like a very reliable number one tight end. And finally second year player David Moore had two touchdowns last week and with increasing snaps each week, there’s hope that he’s the next big thing for Seattle’s offense. In two weeks, we’d really like to see Lockett, Baldwin, Moore, and Dickson all out there with regularity.
The weakest area on defense is the pass rush, probably. Frank Clark has three sacks and you can watch highlights of him owning Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth, but he’s just not dominant or consistent enough yet to be a true number one pass rusher. Which is a little concerning because the Seahawks probably have to give him an $80 million contract soon. Dion Jordan has done almost nothing. Quinton Jefferson is an underrated defensive end, but he’s also not that great. He has no sacks. He has seven quarterback hits, which leads the team. It’s just not great, it’s only more than you might expect.
The best player on the defensive line right now is defensive tackle Jarran Reed. It would be nice to maybe see something more from linebacker Bark Mingo, who has one sack, but it’s really not his specialty. They have to make some big moves at pass rush next offseason.
4. The Raiders gave the Seahawks back Ken Norton Jr and the Seahawks gave the Raiders back Tom Cable. What has been the opinion of the job Norton has done in Seattle this season and what was the opinion of Cable from his time there and why his offensive lines always seemed to underachieve?
Tom Cable is the most hated coach in modern Seahawks history. I’m comfortable saying that. The offensive line was usually under the microscope and was often called the worst in football, but you just won’t get me to say that it was all Cable’s fault. That seems like a very basic, simple, fallback type of excuse for the uninformed.
Seattle invested very little into the offensive line for many of those years -- and when they did invest a first or second round pick in a player, I think they turned out as well as you could have reasonably hoped. Russell Okung played like a top-10 pick of a tackle. James Carpenter was a late first round guard and he’s had a long career. Justin Britt was a late second round tackle and Cable turned him into a pretty good center eventually. Sweezy was a seventh round defensive linemen who is now a pretty rich starting guard.
There were mistakes along the way, but I think coaching always comes down to the talent you’re given. I don’t care that he was fired, but I also don’t blame him for all of the woes. The reason the line is better this year might have something to do with new coach Mike Solari, but he was with the Giants last year and New York had the worst line. The difference is the new players and the investment into Brown at left tackle.
My comments on Norton aren’t much different. Seattle’s defense is playing well, but they also have Carroll and a good amount of talented players. In order for the Seahawks defense to become great again, they need to add more talent in 2019. Norton will know what to do with that.
5. Give me one under the radar player we should be keeping an eye on in this game?
Tre Flower is a rookie cornerback starting opposite of Griffin. He was a safety in college but he’s made the transition to corner and getting a little better every week.
Poona Ford is a UDFA rookie defensive tackle who a lot of fans are in love with. He may play a few snaps, make a few plays.
Mike Davis will step in for Chris Carson at running back at least 20-30 times I’d say and he’s playing super well over the last two weeks.
All eyes on David Moore when Wilson is throwing the ball.
And punter Michael Dickson might be the most popular new player on the roster, which is impressive given that they added Shaquem Griffin.