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Seahawks 24, Giants 7 Quick Thoughts: Jet sweeps, nickel packages, and Doug Baldwin

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks won their third straight game on Sunday, defeating the lowly New York Giants 24-7. It wasn’t even three possessions-close, with the Seahawks coming close to blowing the Giants out if they had connected on a couple more passes. Regardless, Seattle is now 4-2 and will return home for two home games, first against the high-flying Houston Texans before Washington comes to town.

The Seahawks are still yet to hit their stride in 2017. There were miscues on offense and they often looked disjointed in the first-half, but they continue to find ways to win and are positioning themselves for another dominant second-half of the season.

Tyler Lockett and jet sweeps

During the small pockets of time when Percy Harvin was healthy in Seattle, the jet sweep was a staple of the offense. As threatening as any player in the league in open space, Harvin would turn the corner and break off huge run after huge run. In just eight games (including playoffs), Harvin carried the football 14 times for 146 yards, averaging over 10 yards per carry.

Beginning against the Indianapolis Colts, the Seahawks began to run them again - this time with Tyler Lockett. He’s ran the ball six times in the past three games for 46 yards, good for 7.6 yards per carry. It’s an added wrinkle that’s been successful in the past and helps to set up other things the offense wants to do.

Losing field position

There is just one thing I want my kick returners to do: take a knee on kickoffs. Since touchbacks have been moved to the 25-yard line, it makes too much sense to not take that field position. But whether it’s because of Lockett, Brian Schneider or Pete Carroll, that idea hasn’t translated to Seattle. Lockett continuously takes kicks out of the endzone and loses the Seahawks field position. On kickoffs against the Giants on Sunday, Seattle started drives at their 19 and 18-yard lines. The impact was minimal thanks to New York’s incompetence on offense, but in tighter games that field position will be incredibly important.

Nickel packages big and small

Since Brandon Browner was temporarily re-signed last summer, the idea of a ‘big’ nickel package (fifth defensive back being a safety, not cornerback) has been discussed often for the Seahawks. It wasn’t utilized last season much at all, despite constant struggles against tight ends, and it hasn’t been this year either -- despite having a third safety that is starting-caliber. Against the Giants and Evan Engram, it was finally rolled out.

With every receiver to ever play for New York out, Engram was Seattle’s only concern. And rightfully so, as Engram is a cyborg constructed in a lab by a scientist who holds a deep, dark grudge against defensive coordinators. To combat this alien-cyborg (the lab was also on Mars), the Seahawks started the game in the big-nickel package, with McDougald covering Engram on two of New York’s first three plays. On the other play, Richard Sherman shadowed Engram from out wide all the way to back in-line. Respect was shown and the lines were drawn. And then they went away from it.

The snap counts aren’t available yet, but I would be surprised if McDougald even played half of the defense’s plays. He didn’t show up again until New York’s ninth drive of the game -- which he ended with a great open-field tackle of Engram. If the big-nickel was ever going to be leaned on heavily, Sunday was the day for it.

Justin Coleman’s potential impact on the game was lessened before kickoff, when Giants’ slot receiver Sterling Shepard was announced as inactive. Even so, he showed up with a bang at times: one huge special teams tackle, an incredible tackle on a screen pass where he fought through a block to get to the ball, and a pass breakup on a third down pass over the middle. With Jeremy Lane getting closer to a return, it’s worth noting that Coleman has seemingly passed every test.

Doug Baldwin, professional eviscerator

One day Doug Baldwin is going to contribute to the most disgusting thing we will ever see on a football field. The defense will be playing cover-0, and he’ll have such a devastating release off the line of scrimmage that the defender’s spine will turn to a gel-like substance and he will be left in a sad, defeated puddle. Until then, Sunday’s touchdown will be comparable. Allen Iverson thinks Baldwin needs to go easy otherwise someone’s ankles will get seriously hurt.

A more humane Baldwin-tidbit from Sunday: This season, he has 10 catches on third down. Of those 10 catches, nine have gone for first downs. There’s reliability, there’s State Farm, then there’s Doug Baldwin.

Thomas Rawls

On the first play of Sunday’s game, Thomas Rawls took a handoff for seven yards. Then he disappeared into the greater-Manhattan skyline for the rest of the drive. Neither he or Lacy will start to gain traction this season if they aren’t allowed to get into a rhythm, and it was evident again against the Giants. By the time Rawls found his way back onto the field for the offense’s third drive, he fumbled the ball away to Landon Collins. Eventually he took over the backfield and was allowed to help kill off the game, but he ended with just 36 yards on 11 carries. Three of those 11 carries were his three most explosive runs of the season, but still nothing resembling a normal stat line.

Even if it means Lacy or Rawls getting just a couple carries in a game, one of them should be allowed a full workload and see if they can get one of their ‘backs rolling. For my money, a 1-2 of Rawls and J.D. McKissic is the team’s best option.

Jimmy Graham and a clinic in great quarterback play

As frustrating as it was watching Seattle fail to score on their second possession, Wilson and Graham’s connection had to be the worst part. Twice they had him isolated against a cornerback on the outside, and twice it failed to end in a touchdown. On the first throw, it looked like Graham expected the ball short into his body and Wilson pushed the ball to the corner. On the second, Graham expected a jump ball and left his feet as Wilson delivered the ball between the numbers. The blame isn’t the frustrating part to me. It’s the lack of rapport those two showed. It’s mind-boggling that after almost three years, that play isn’t second nature to them.

On the following drive, Graham was wide open down the sideline and dropped what could’ve been a long touchdown. Following the drop, he looked dejected, walking off the field almost immediately. But like a true leader - and an intelligent quarterback - Wilson went back to him and got him back into the game. What started as a potentially disastrous game for Graham ended brightly, with a three catch, 51-yard and one touchdown effort.

Quick aside: One of Graham’s catches was on a long catch-and-run from a slant route. It kills me they don’t run this with him more often. If he gets inside position on the defensive back - like he did on this play - it’s game over. The defender is either going to come through him and get flagged for pass interference, or it’s an easy catch for Graham.

A wide receiver check-in

Baldwin’s inhumane treatment of cornerbacks aside, it was a notable game for the rest of the receiving core. Paul Richardson had his standard one great catch a game, a hilarious Fail Mary II touchdown catch. He ended the game with two catches for 61 yards, and has continued to provide the Seahawks with an explosive second receiving option. He might be pricing himself out of a return to Seattle next year, but his reliability in 2017 has been hugely important.

Amara Darboh continues to pop up once or twice a game, finishing with two catches for 29 yards. What encourages me about Darboh: his biggest catch today came with Wilson outside the pocket and Darboh working back to the quarterback and getting open. What receivers do after the play breaks down matters a ton in Seattle’s offense, and Darboh is making himself a legitimate option already.

Tanner McEvoy should be sent to the lab where they created Evan Engram, in an effort to see if any spare parts can make a competent football player. McEvoy has only shown up when he’s been a minus to the team this season, and Sunday was no different. First, he was flagged for running into the kicker, resulting in a New York first down. A couple possessions later, he couldn’t even run a rub route correctly, allowing Eli Apple to stick with Baldwin deep (it resulted in an incomplete pass). We want David Moore, and we want him sooner rather than later.

Odds and Ends:

  • K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor were so steady for the Seahawks. They combined on two third-down stops to get the defense off the field. Wright will likely never get the credit he is due on Seattle’s defense, which is the most K.J. Wright thing of all.
  • Jarran Reed has provided pressure from the interior this season, and against New York it resulted in a Manning fumble, recovered by Frank Clark. His game is quietly getting more well-rounded.
  • Eddie Lacy is a prime example of why running back is a young man’s position in 2017. It’s striking how much slower his first-step is than other running backs.
  • I’m going to begin my campaign for Neiko Thorpe as an All-Pro special teamer with a chest tattoo and will happily share the design for the hundreds looking to join me.