The Seattle Seahawks got the opportunity to show off the shiny new toy acquired at the trade deadline on Sunday in three time Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown, but unfortunately in a perfect storm convergence of everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, Brown’s debut was not as cheerful as most fans had anticipated. With Brown starting his first game at LT and LG Ethan Pocic starting just the second game of his career, the left side of the line in Sunday’s game had a combined one start for the Seahawks between them coming into the game.
That’s two total starts for the season combined if you include Brown’s 2017 debut last week against Seattle.
Russell Wilson spent much of the day under pressure, much as he did prior to the team acquiring Brown, and there were multiple occasions where it was that brand new left side of the line that led to Wilson being pressured. Brown performed well given that he has a total of two weeks of practice this season, and just a single week with the Seahawks, but he was not the savior many fans had hoped for. He appeared a half step slow at times, which may have been rust or it could have simply been one of the oldest active offensive linemen in the NFL playing in a cold, wet environment.
Whatever the reason his performance was not pristine.
That’s not to say that it was poor. Brown’s play represented an improvement over the performance out of the LT position for most of the prior games this season, but his performance alone was not enough to keep Russell upright or to lead the team to victory. A deeper look into Brown’s performance is slated for sometime this week on Field Gulls, so I won’t get too in depth on his performance here, other than to say that unofficial reports have Brown as having played all 83 offensive snaps for Seattle in the game.
Pocic, on the other hand, had the roughest game of his still very young NFL career. He managed to record his first NFL penalty late in the first half, and the 5-yard false start infraction ended up costing the Hawks as Russell scrambled for 13 yards on 3rd & 15. In addition, Pocic was beaten multiple times while providing pass protection, including allowing the sack of Russell Wilson with just seconds remaining in the game that took the Seahawks out of range to even consider attempting a field goal to tie the game.
I will take a more in depth look at Pocic in the coming days.
I will have to go back and watch the film to get a better idea of what failed in the pass protection, but just looking at the box score it appears Washington continued to use overload rushes to get to Wilson. While he was only sacked twice on the day, Wilson took 9 hits, with 5 of those hits coming from linebackers. That might indicate that the Washington defense was attacking the empty set formations Seattle used regularly, but I will know more and can provide better detail after watching the film.
Taking all of that into consideration, the running game performed a lot better on Sunday than it had for much of the season. Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and J.D. McKissic combined for 71 yards on 18 carries (3.94 yards per carry), which is far from impressive, but is far better than the five yards the backs combined for last week. Perhaps most importantly limited the number of stuffed plays. Of the 18 rushing attempts between these three backs, only two went for no gain and zero lost yardage. Both of those plays went to the right side of the line, so it appears as though Britt’s improving health and the addition of Brown may have improved the run blocking significantly on the left side.
Between the three backs Seattle ran to the left seven times, with all seven runs producing positive yardage. That in and of itself represents an improvement in the running game, and as the unit gains cohesion and Brown knocks off more rust in the coming weeks, hopefully his presence spells success for the Hawks.
It will be important in the coming days to see how serious the injury Lacy suffered in the game was, and whether he will be ready to go on Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals. Also injured in the game and not returning was FB Tre Madden who left the game with an achilles injury. If both Madden and Lacy are out for any extended period of time, it could lead to one of the backs being placed on IR, as it could leave the team with McKissic and Rawls as the only healthy RBs on the roster.
It will be a short turnaround for the upcoming Thursday game against Arizona, and it will be interesting to see home much improvement continues for the line heading into that game. It will be particularly important to see how the 32 year old Brown responds to playing his third game in twelve days after having held out for the first seven weeks of the season.