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Seahawks Grades: Overlooked but still important, Mike Morgan’s return vs the Panthers

Pete Carroll’s linebacker shows why he makes the team year after year

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mike Morgan has often been the forgotten man on the team. Many people might not even realize that he is now in his sixth season, having signed with the Seahawks after going undrafted out of USC in 2011. What I personally think is the most awesome thing about Morgan is that he’s been with Pete Carroll every year he’s played football outside of high school, except for his senior year with the Trojans.

Guys like Morgan truly represent the hard work and character that Carroll emphasizes when building a roster. Joshua Kasparek had a great write up yesterday about Ricardo Lockette’s bittersweet return to Seattle. He talks about special teams and how important it is; We all know how important it is to Carroll, as that’s why they’ve always had players like Lockette and Morgan who we think aren’t going to make the team every year, but always do.

Morgan has been a core special teamer since 2012 when he played in every game, and had been relatively healthy throughout his entire career, until missing two games in 2015 and so far the majority of this season.

But talk about bad luck.

Morgan signed a one-year deal in the offseason for $1 million with the shot to finally own the starting SAM spot on the Seahawks defense and then he won the job after a tough competition against Cassius Marsh, Eric Pinkins, and others. He played well to start the season and then a pulled groin in Week 4 put him on injured reserve and kept him off the field for two months.

Well, he finally made his return last week against the Carolina Panthers, and the wait to return plus the decision to use the designation on him paid off; On the first play of the game he got his first career interception.

I love rooting for guys like Morgan, and was excited to see him get immediate reward coming back from his injury. (And it looked like his teammates were as well.) Morgan has never been one to make splash plays, but the reason why he makes the team every year and finally won the starting SAM job is that he simply does his job.

He did it well against the Panthers. He was on a limited snap count, playing in just 17 of them, but was effective. Let’s take a look at all 17 here:

Now a few plays that stood out.

Play 2: Jonathan Stewart right guard for 1 yard

Morgan is off the line of scrimmage, rather than on the line setting the edge, putting him in space. This creates more opportunity for him to make a mistake and get out of position, compared to when he’s on the line, he just has to keep contain. Morgan does a great job of reading, being patient, reacting and filling the hole to make the tackle for minimal gain. I was impressed with Morgan on this play, as he’s not used to playing off the line.

Play 6: Stewart left guard for no gain

Morgan is on the line of scrimmage over the tight end. Play goes to the opposite side. He slides down the line, but doesn’t just chase, which would leave him out of position for a cut back. He’s patient, and puts a big hit on Stewart.

Also, Michael Bennett was quiet in the stat department, but Morgan gets the tackle because Bennett penetrates into the backfield forcing Stewart to cut back.

Play 14: Cam Newton pass incomplete deep left

He’s on the line of scrimmage this time. The play call is a blitz with him on the outside and Bobby Wagner on the inside. He doesn’t get a great rush, but is able to get the edge enough that the running back has to step out to help block Morgan, which opens the middle for someone to beat their man.

The offensive line holds up on the blitz/stunt, but there is enough push and pressure generated that Newton has to move off his spot and is uncomfortable. Newton throws off his back foot with terrible mechanics, forcing an incomplete pass. It’s plays like this that don’t make the stat sheet, but are effective. You don’t always have to have a sack to have a successful pass rush.

Play 16: Stewart up the middle for 4 yards

Again on the line of scrimmage. This is a short yardage play and everyone knows its going up the middle. He collapses down the line and gets far enough that the pulling guard has to block him, which he gets just enough of him. Morgan squeezes the hole, and just misses the running back. Only knock on him here is that he needs to be able to take the block on quicker and keep the lineman off his body so he can disengage easier. However, it did look like he was held a little, with the guard’s arm wrapped around him, but he lets go quickly so it wasn’t called.


After being out for eight weeks, Mike Morgan didn’t miss a beat. Check out his stat line: 5 total tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 interception returned for 14 yards.

All that on 17 snaps. In the four years Bruce Irvin played for Seattle, he only had three games where he had five or more tackles. Now, I’m not saying Morgan is better than Irvin, but it gives you an idea on how productive he was on Sunday and it may be more “Seahawky” than Bruce was.

And other than being productive he was consistent. On my grades, he had three scores of 1, eight scores of 0.9, two scores each of 0.7 and 0.5. He had 15 out of 17 wins of different degrees, with the majority of those wins done convincingly. This gives him a Field Gulls Grade of 77%. That’s a good, not great score, but one that I’ll take in a year where Bruce Irvin is making $12.5 million and Morgan is the 37th highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker.


  1. The Panthers were clearly concerned with protecting Cam Newton. Many times they utilized 6 and 7 man protections, using multiple tight ends and fullbacks to pass protect. This led to Morgan being on the field on passing plays, rather than Jeremy Lane in nickel due to personnel match up. These usually resulted in Carolina only having 2 or 3 routes. When this occurred, many times Greg Olsen would be lined out wide, and KJ Wright would switch to SAM and Morgan would play off the ball in WILL. Morgan was a little rusty playing in space, but he did well enough.
  2. The past several weeks the run defense has been a concern with many teams too easily able to get the edge and turn the corner, and the defense giving up too many yards. The team has ran out multiple players in Morgan’s absence, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Brock Coyle and Jordan Tripp all taking snaps at SAM. The problem is that they are all MLB or WLB, and don’t have the size or length to play the traditional SAM spot. Morgan’s size and assignment correctness is going to bolster the run defense headed down the final stretch. A great time to get reinforcements.