It’s week 12 of the NFL season and the 4-6 Washington Football Team will be facing a 3-7 Seahawks team at home at FedExField on Monday night. The Seahawks have a worse overall record and are coming off a 2-game losing streak, but Russell Wilson is 3-0 in Washington over his last three matchups. The Seahawks are currently in last place in the competitive NFC West, two games behind the 3rd place 49ers (at 5-5). The Seahawks will be looking to win this game in order to break their losing streak, though if they lose, it may very well be the end of any hope they have of making the playoffs in such a competitive division.
The Seahawks went 2-2 to start the season, but an injury to QB Russell Wilson’s throwing hand in their week 5 matchup vs the Rams led to the team going 1-3 without him and 0-2 upon his return (where he has been playing at less than 100%). The Seahawks have been a playoff team in 8 of the 9 seasons that Russell Wilson has been their starting QB, but they have been relying heavily on his health and their offensive ability to win, with a top-10 offense and bottom-half defense in each of their last 3 seasons according to Football Outsiders DVOA. Gone are the times that birthed the nickname Legion of Boom, when a lockdown defense and punishing running game could carry Seattle to victory behind a game-managing Russell Wilson.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked John Gilbert of Field Gulls five questions about the state of the Seahawks and what to look for in this game.
1) The Seahawks have fielded a top offense that has carried the team for each of the past few years, but this year’s offense has seemed to collapse (or at least underperform relative to expectation). Obviously part of the reason is the injury to Russell Wilson, but are there other factors in the problems with the Seahawks offense this season?
The injury and time Wilson missed are huge portions of the equation. The offense was averaging 25.8 points per game in the four games prior to his injury and has certainly struggled to put points on the board since his return. During his absence Geno Smith was, well, Geno Smith. There’s a reason he’s a backup on a veteran minimum benefit contract rather than starting for one of the other 31 teams, and that was largely on display during his starts. The offense struggled under his direction in each of his first two starts (20 points in Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and 10 points against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7), which should not be all that much of a surprise for a quarterback who had exactly two starts since Malcolm Butler became a household name.
Then Russ came back after the bye and a lot of fans seemed to expect everything to go right back to normal, but it was obvious the finger was still bothering him in spite of being medically cleared to play. He didn’t take any snaps from under center, the run game appears to have been managed in order to allow him to primarily use his left hand to handoff and he seemed hesitant to pull the trigger when the pocket was collapsing. Things improved a little in his second game back in Week 11, but Russ still wasn’t the Russ fans have come to know. In short, combining a broken bone and torn ligament in a finger with time off and the loss of touch that comes with surgery on the middle finger of the throwing hand, and rust shouldn’t have been a surprise.
That all said, he’s now reaching the point in a normal recovery timeline where he would be expected to be getting back to normal. There will likely still be some touch issues, and he may still favor the surgically repaired finger some, but with two games and three weeks of practice, he should be much more at ease. Not going to predict an offensive explosion just yet, but I will be exactly zero percent surprised when he looks the best he has since Week 4.
2) What do you think Russell Wilson does well and what are your criticisms of him? What are the chances he gets traded between now and next season and what would the price be?
Without question, Russ has one of the best deep balls in the NFL, but there are parts of his game where he could certainly improve. He makes very limited use of, if at all, the short middle, and his desire to always look for the big play seems to be resulting in sacks more and more often as he ages and his speed slowly disappears. His pocket mechanics have improved greatly in recent seasons, but his pocket presence and decision making seem to be lacking at times.
3) What do you think of Pete Carroll and his coaching staff and their strengths and weaknesses? If there is a rebuild, should Carroll be the one to lead it?
Carroll is, undoubtedly, one of the best coaches in the league in getting his players to buy into his system and believing in his system. That skill has obviously led to him winning a National Championship at USC and a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. On the flip side, he continues to make decisions during games as if he’s still coaching the Legion of Boom, and not a defense that is towards the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed, interceptions and sacks, and then to compound that his in game decision making on challenges and timeout management could definitely use improvement.
If there is a rebuild, Carroll undoubtedly has the qualifications to be in charge of it, but it feels as though a lot of fans have tired of his approach. That could simply be a product of the current 3-7 record, and a soft schedule over the next six weeks could greatly alter the complexion of how those fans are feeling. Personally, my feeling is that the 3-7 record the Seahawks have put together to this point is largely a combination of the facts that Seattle has faced the most difficult schedule in the NFL through the first eleven weeks and they did that while playing without their future Hall of Fame quarterback for three plus games (and another two games where he was so ineffective following the finger surgery that he maybe shouldn’t have been on the field). Given the schedule over the next six weeks (Washington, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago and Detroit) there’s a very real chance the Hawks finish the season in the neighborhood of .500, and in that case my guess is the franchise will simply run it back rather than take on a full rebuild.
4) Who are some Seahawks players we might not be familiar with, but will make plays on Monday?
On the offensive side of the ball, the team has been struggling to find a third offensive weapon behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf for a couple of seasons now. Starting running back Chris Carson is done for the year following neck surgery. His backup, Rashaad Penny, has played in only four games this season due to injury, including tweaking a hamstring on the opening snap of the first ever start of his career in Week 11. Alex Collins had been starting, but a groin injury that doesn’t seem to be getting better has bothered him since the Week 6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s a roundabout way of saying the injury situation seems like it could lead to more snaps than expected from 2020 fourth round running back DeeJay Dallas. Dallas saw his heaviest workload of the season against the Cardinals in relief of Penny and Collins, and if either of those two are unable to go Monday, Dallas will be the beneficiary.
In the passing game, free agent tight end Gerald Everett likely sees a lot of the targets that don’t go to Metcalf and Lockett. Getting a little ahead of things here and touching on part of the answer to the next question, teams are doubling up Lockett and Metcalf in key situations, and effectively inviting Seattle to throw to Everett or Freddie Swain. Wilson is so turnover averse that he accepts that invitation a lot of the time. Everett has 100 yards on 11 receptions in the two games since Russ returned to the field, and a big number of targets seems likely to be in order.
A lot wrong with Seattle on 3rd down but the strangest stat I saw was Freddie Swain having more 3rd down targets (9) from Russ than Gerald Everett and Tyler Lockett combined (6). Lockett hasn’t had a 3rd-down target from Russ since Week 2. That’s wild. https://t.co/ztVkTb1Oif pic.twitter.com/AXsKSG6RBE— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) November 23, 2021
On the defensive side of the ball, Rasheem Green and Bryan Mone are quietly having solid, if unspectacular, seasons on the defensive line. Darrell Taylor and Carlos Dunlap seem to grab most of the attention, but Green and Mone are second and third on the team in sacks, respectively. That probably says more about the Seahawks pass rush as a whole than it does about the performance of Green and Mone, but whether Washington looks to move the ball on the ground or through the air, don’t be surprised when Mone and Green have their names called.
5) How would you gameplan to beat the Seahawks on both sides of the ball?
From a defensive perspective, the key to slowing down Seattle is to take Lockett and Metcalf out of the game as much as possible. Those two are the big play machines, and eliminating the big play effectively shuts down an offense that has found it nearly impossible to sustain long drives this season. In addition, one thing a lot of teams have found success doing against Seattle this season is disguising coverages with late rotations. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph went on record Tuesday on this matter, and if defensive coordinators are mentioning it publicly, it’s obviously a weakness known across the league.
WFT head coach Ron Rivera used late rotations to great success for a large portion of a 2018 game against Wilson and the Seahawks while with the Carolina Panthers. It looked like Carolina would emerge victorious until Russ went Russ and put ten points on the board in the final three and a half minutes of the game.
When Washington has the ball, they’ll want to attack whatever it is that the Seahawks defense is giving them. For much of the season, screen passes and dump offs to running backs were the kryptonite of the Seattle defense. However, they appear to have focused on that better the past couple of weeks. Arizona promptly exploited that shift in focus by going to Zach Ertz repeatedly and then repeatedly dumping the ball off to Rondale Moore and letting him make something out of nothing. If McKissic, or any of the other WFT backs are able to do something similar, it could be a real problem for the Seahawks.
Thanks again to John Gilbert for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Seahawks.
As of right now, Vegas has Washington as 1 point favorites over Seattle. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Washington wins by more than 1 point
Washington wins by 1 point or it’s a tie
Seattle wins outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 46.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
47 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 47 total points are scored (both sides combined)
How many 1st round picks would you be willing to trade right now for Russell Wilson and his contract? Be sure to indicate your limit, not just what you’d hope for.
This poll is closed
Three 1st round picks and some 2nd and/or 3rd round picks
Three 1st round picks
Two 1st round picks
One 1st round pick
I’d only trade a 2nd or 3rd round pick