Week 4 was a Seahawks victory, 27-17, taking the Hawks to 3-1, the same record as the Los Angeles Rams.
Russell Wilson’s Football IQ Is Off The Charts.
While Russell Wilson continues to fight through injury, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell took steps to protect his signal-caller and to confuse the Jets secondary by introducing a blend of new looks and combinations. The afternoon saw Doug Baldwin come in on end-arounds, Luke Willson lined up as a receiver or in the backfield, CJ Spiller lined up outside and came in motion, and even Jimmy Graham played from wide-out and out of the slot. Combined with Wilson’s freakish accuracy on downfield throws, the final stat line was 23/32 for 309 yards and 3TDs.
Below, Jets defender Darron Lee had Jimmy Graham as an assignment and played inside with his face to Wilson. Prior to the snap, he leaned forward, like he was threatening a blitz. (Personally, I cringed because the offense was in an empty set). Wilson was not fooled. Lee dumped out to Graham instantly and stayed underneath a crossing Lockett. He was step-for-step with Graham down the sidelines, but a well-timed throw and catch left Lee helpless.
It was hard making animated GIFs of this game. The Jets were blowing coverages so far downfield that most of it happened off-camera.
Going into the bye week, Wilson will have two weeks to heal and boy does he need it. While playing lights-out during first halves, Wilson has struggled in the second. During week three against the 49ers, an attempt to outrun linebacker Eli Harold on 3rd and 21 left Wilson with a sprained MCL. On Sunday, Wilson was in a similar situation against Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson. Wilson slid to protect himself. During the third quarter alone, he threw away three passes. Until Wilson is 100%, the 3rd and 4th quarters will need to see him getting more protection with a greater percentage of short-to-midrange throws.
I love Wilson but when his running begins to resemble mine, it’s a sign that I’m a lousy runner and he’s playing through serious pain. He’ll never ask for the help, but he needs it.
The Legion of Boom Finds Some Common Ground.
The Legion of Boom blew open this week with three interceptions, but the individual accolades were the result of improved teamwork.
Kam Chancellor’s pass coverage these last two weeks has improved considerably. On an early 2nd and 7, Chancellor played deeper than he was accustomed (which is sometimes so close he’s on the heels of the linebackers). As a result, he was still in position to contain outside if Fitzpatrick had chosen to throw to his side. Midway through the 2nd, on 2nd and 20, Kam stayed back again, then he passed on the big hit to contain. While allowing this wiggle room did give up underneath throws, it stabilized a defense that was frequently playing too aggressively and, quite frankly, was selling out Earl Thomas on the back-end.
Richard Sherman was tested early and often, and like all great players, he eventually responded; however, Sherman may have had such a workout because his counterpart, DeShawn Shead, was bullet-proof. (Eric Decker did not dress). Shead played the press perfectly and even his coverage hand-offs were beautiful. His mental game was so sharp that his body stayed loose and receptive, resulting in little-wasted motion. Unfortunately, this particular hand-off didn’t fully make it on screen, but last season, Shead would’ve hung onto his first assignment, afraid to let it go.
A football secondary is like a tide. The deepest part of the ocean is the safeties. If they perform at a high rate, the third level gets taken away. Once the corners feel the tide, they get looser and trust their pre-snap reads. That tide hits the linebackers, who instructively feel where their puzzle piece fits. Now, the second level is gone. Slowly this happened to the Jets, until the only option they had was to get yards after catch (YAC) on dump-off passes, but once the field got shorter, those throwing lanes thinned.
And then the INTs started.
Don’t believe me that Kam playing back made a difference?
So Where Can The Hawks Improve?
The Hawks are 3-1 heading into their bye week, and the only time a Pete Carroll-era team started the year this hot was 2013. And to editorialize, I think this team will go to the Super Bowl. The defense is meshing in this zone scheme and the screws are tightening. In my opinion, no one should overreact to these dump-off throws picking up YAC. It’s acceptable. (The Falcons will present Shead new challenges and opportunities for growth). Likewise, as long as Graham and Baldwin stay healthy, this offense will put up an onslaught of points. I spent a few minutes at the bar hypothesizing a nick-name for the Graham/Baldwin combo because they will eventually emerge as a nationwide recognizable duo, on par with the notoriety of the Legion of Boom. Someone came up with, “The one-two punch.” It’s a real pick your poison type-of-deal. You’re dealing with a large, athletic man with good hands who you will double or die, or you’re dealing with a speedster and route-running extraordinaire who will bust zones.
Few defenses can handle both at once.
The only part of the 2016 Seahawks that feels like the 2015 Seahawks is this uncertainty at the tailback position. Mad respect to Christine Michael, but he’s over-performed. Michael is not and never will be an every-down, all-purpose back. Meanwhile, the Hawks are in a holding pattern over Thomas Rawls, Alex Collins and now CJ Spiller. Stability at the tailback position is a must for the Hawks spread looks to work in the postseason. The giant question mark above Rawl’s reliability means the offense almost needs two #2 backs to cover a potential injury disaster. But, how do you make that work? In 2015, the secondary struggled because there were too many people for the #2 corner position. Williams, Shead, Lane, Burley… And none of them were comfortable in the role by playoff time. Having an on-field competition for a job is typical during the Pete Carroll-era, but a decision needs to be made between CJ Spiller and Alex Collins quickly.
Thanks for reading!
In case you missed it…