Some people might exclaim that I'm making "excuses" for Russell Wilson's slumping performance in three of his last four games (and that fourth game was an NFL record) and overlooking a few throws that were off target, but let's really take a deeper look at what's been happening over the last month or so. Because it would seem odd to me that a player who was off to one of the best starts in NFL history would all of a sudden just lose it.
Could anything else explain the difference between the Wilson that won the Super Bowl in February and the one who has posted a passer rating of 76.4 over his last four games compared to 112.9 over his first four games? I mean, can anyone think of anything that's happened over that period of time?
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Injuries, maybe? Or is it more likely that over night, Wilson just forgot how to throw a football?
Let's put aside Memento for a second and look at injuries.
First of all, let's briefly talk about the guys we never talk about. The guys who have been missing for almost the entire year despite the fact that the Seahawks had planned on them playing a role with the team this season but got hurt.
- Lemuel Jeanpierre, C (8 games, IR)
Jeanpierre has made eight career starts with Seattle, including three at center last year. He's a very good backup center. I mean, in the context of "backup center" he's actually very great! The Seahawks have used three centers this year, including Stephen Schilling (who is a guard) and Patrick Lewis, a 2013 undrafted free agent who is already with his fourth team.
- Anthony McCoy, TE (8 games, IR)
There once was a strong little boy
Whose name was Anthony McCoy
He was strong in '012, but since placed on the shelves
I miss that bundle of joy
And now, the "recently" departed:
- Derrick Coleman, FB (3 games, IR)
Through five games, Coleman had 50 snaps. His role is more subdued than others but he did catch two passes, including a touchdown, before landing on IR with a foot injury.
- Percy Harvin, WR (3 games, trade)
Not for sake of injury, Harvin is now gone. This wasn't just supposed to be the number one receiver on the team, a team that really doesn't have a number one receiver, but an option at running back. This was the do-all cog on the offense after Marshawn Lynch. He played 190 snaps with Seattle in five games. Though Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse had more snaps at that point (282 and 270, respectively) Harvin had the most targets (26) of the receivers.
Over the last three games, Paul Richardson has received 149 snaps, a higher amount of snaps per game than Harvin even. He has received 12 targets, catching nine of them for 65 yards. Up to that point, Richardson had one career target.
Without Harvin, Kearse has been targeted 15 times. He's caught six of those, or 40%.
In that time, Baldwin has seen 22 targets, catching 18 of them for 222 yards. Baldwin's production has increased, but his qualifications as a number one receiver deteriorate once you realize there isn't anyone else around to help. If he were on the Steelers, could he be Antonio Brown? If he were on the Colts, could he be TY Hilton?
- Russell Okung, LT (1 game)
Alvin Bailey played 83 snaps on Sunday and was penalized twice. Pro Football Focus also notes that he allowed Wilson to be hurried three times. Which, looks great in comparison to Justin Britt. The rookie allowed Wilson to be hurried four times and hit once.
Overall this season, Britt has allowed 23 QB hurries, one hit, two sacks, and three penalties. It's the second-most hurries of any tackle in the NFL, though to be fair, it could be worse. According to PFF, 2012 Pro Bowler Matt Kalil has allowed 10 sacks. That being said, how many sacks has Russell Wilson avoided this year?
If he were less agile, some of those "hurries" would definitely be sacks?
- Max Unger, C (4 games)
It's pretty easy to note how many snaps Unger has missed this year because centers are pretty much always going to be in there. Unger played 260 snaps, while Schilling and Lewis have combined for 275. That's a little more than 50% of the season gone for a guy who by all accounts should be Michaelangelo next to Bebop and Rocksteady.
(Oh, I was going for a TMNT reference. You thought it would be an art reference? Uh, welcome to Field Gulls.)
I actually can't say that Lewis or Schilling haven't played that well. Maybe a couple mishaps but considering how not ready they seemed to be starting NFL centers, they held up alright. But it's still playing half the year with a backup and a backup-backup snapping it to Wilson.
- Stephen Schilling (1 game)
Backup plan to the backup plan. Schilling played only 18 snaps on Sunday compared to 65 for Lewis.
- James Carpenter, G (53 snaps)
Carpenter has been taken out for 53 snaps this season. Doesn't seem like much (it's about a game or a little less than a game) but it's been kind of costly. In Week 8, Alvin Bailey played 21 snaps at left guard and allowed three QB hurries, an insanely high amount. (Carp allowed zero rush of any kind on Wilson on 44 snaps.)
Garry Gilliam played 30 snaps in Week 9 and allowed two QB hurries, with two penalties.
- Zach Miller, TE (5 games)
Miller played 160 snaps in the first three games, which is out of a possible 192 snaps. Basically, he's in for like 83% of all offensive plays, or at least he was to open the year. So if you take the 343 snaps of the last five games, that's 285 possible snaps missed by Miller.
In the last five games, Luke Willson has played 222 snaps and has been targeted 18 times. He has caught seven of those (38.9%) for 78 yards (4.3 yards per target) with one touchdown and three drops.
Last season, Miller caught 64.7% of his targets for 7.58 yards per target and one drop.
- Luke Willson, TE (1 game)
If Willson missed a game, forcing Cooper Helfett into action (127 snaps, 6 of 10 catching for 115 yards, potentially terrible blocking) for a bit.
So how else could we sum up some of these points?
- If McCoy is your number two TE, then that means the Seahawks were using their third and fourth string TEs with Willson and Helfet.
- If Jeanpierre is your backup center, then that means the Seahawks were using their fourth string C with Lewis.
- If the Seahawks went into the year with Harvin as their number one, Baldwin as their number two, Kearse as their number three, and Richardson as their number four, that means that their number four receiver got 61 snaps against the Raiders, or, basically the same amount as their number two and three, who in effect are now their number one and number two. And also that their number five receiver (Norwood) got 20 snaps and their number SIX receiver (Lockette) got 11.
- The starting left tackle was an undrafted guard a year ago.
- One third of the snaps at guard went to an undrafted tackle from this year.
- The starting right tackle was the 64th player drafted this year. If you think that maybe a tackle that went at the end of the second round should be ready to start, consider this:
Greg Robinson, the player drafted second overall, isn't deemed ready to play either tackle position for the Rams.
Jake Matthews, the player drafted sixth overall, is arguably the worst tackle in the NFL right now for the Falcons.
Ju'Wuan James, the player drafted 19th overall, has allowed his QB to be hit eight times, third-most in the NFL for tackles.
Even second year players Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, drafted first and second overall, are struggling by all accounts.
I think that pre-draft projections are often a little silly, but this is a guy that most people weren't expecting until day three, starting at right tackle for a team that won the Super Bowl a year ago and probably expected to compete with Garrett Scott (remember him?) and Michael Bowie when he was selected. Instead it's just, "oh you're literally our only option it seems."
So how many players that started on Sunday had one or more career starts prior to 2013?
- Russell Wilson
- Marshawn Lynch
- Doug Baldwin
- James Carpenter (injured)
- JR Sweezy
How many regulars on offense on Sunday had almost no experience prior to this year?
- Patrick Lewis
- Stephen Schilling
- Garry Gilliam
- Alvin Bailey
- Justin Britt
- Paul Richardson
- Kevin Norwood (only 20 snaps, but two targets)
- Christine Michael (only seven snaps, but four carries)
- Cooper Helfet
Jesus, how could you not score 50 points?!
Yesterday on Twitter, I asked what coach you would fire if you had to fire one of them and most people answered with Darrell Bevell. Easily in second was Tom Cable. There weren't any other candidates. (Well, someone said Kippy Brown for not turning this group of wide receivers into the Denver Broncos trio.) But let's really be serious here for a second.
That offensive line is atrocious. Not just in how they play, but in how far below the "average" they are in terms of experience, age, and draft position.
The wide receiver group lacks one superior player. The top two receivers weren't drafted and the number three and four players are rookies.
The tight end group is a wasteland.
It's phenomenal that Wilson has survived and that Lynch has remained deadly, arguably coming off one of the best games of his career. So, are we making excuses for why Wilson has been bad?
Sorry, nope, I'm giving you reasons for why he is good.