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Identity Shift: Seahawks RB usage, defensive trends start to solidify

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Also of note: the newly freed-up Jermaine Kearse targets are going to four main destinations

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With the possibility of philosophical shifts in the Seattle Seahawks’ immediate future —

There will be some things that will be a little different this week ~Pete Carroll

— the task of tracking smaller trends of 2017 largely stays in the preliminary mode. We’ll check in today with each of the possible narratives identified last week, maybe remove any that petered out, maybe suggest a couple more.

1. Pass protection woes

TrendCon level: 2 (1 is most worrisome, 5 is least)

It’s not getting any easier for Russell Wilson, in terms of pressure. In the opener, it was 39.7 of dropbacks where he faced pressure, and this past week the number climbed to 46.7. The line isn’t giving him enough time to find receivers, and he was fortunate to escape the 49ers game without throwing an interception.

Wilson has been hit 16 times this season, which would of course project out to 128 hits over a full season. Only Cleveland Browns quarterbacks were knocked down more than that in 2016. For context, Derek Carr “suffered” all of 41 hits last season.

A welcome Bevellopment has been the Seahawks’ propensity to move the "pocket" with increased rollouts, bootlegs and designed runs for Wilson, in addition to reviving actual read-option or read-zone plays from the playbook.

But so far, no matter of creativity is sparing the quarterback from excessive punishment.

2. Running back by committee?

Narrative Status: Worth Monitoring

The competition is currently not trending toward clearly established roles, to say the least. It was in Week 1, with 15 carries split 6-5-4 among the lead backs.

Then, Week 2 saw Chris Carson receive more carries, and more snaps, and more yards, than both the other active RBs combined (Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise).

By the way, if you had Eddie Lacy in your pool for "first healthy inactive Seattle RB," good call, but the China food is on you at the next FG gathering.

Seahawks rushing, through 2 games

Carson 26-132-0-5.1

Wilson 14-74-0-5.3

Prosise 4-11-0-2.8

Rawls 5-4-0-0.8

Lacy 5-3-0-0.6

So there’s a reason Carson is lapping the field in yardage, and it isn’t just because he’s getting the most carries. It’s because he’s making the most of the ones he gets.

Not sure why the trend toward Carson would reverse itself now, except that it’s a long season and shit happens.

3. Red zone woes

TrendCon Level: 3

The Seahawks settled for one touchdown on three red zone trips against the Niners, "lifting" them to a 20 percent success rate... which would be on a pace for 32nd in any season this decade. But of some consolation: the top four teams in red zone percentage last year (Titans, 49ers, Saints, Colts) combined for a 26-38 record, while the bottom four teams (Vikings, Skins, Texans, Jets) combined for a 30-33-1 record. For as infuriating as it feels to settle for mere field goals most the time, red zone success is hardly predictive of victory or overall success.

4. Sack surplus

Narrative Status: Worth Monitoring

The precious one-sack advantage (Seattle sacks minus opponent sacks) has officially been squandered. Sacks earned and allowed are now even at six apiece. More on this after one of the units has a particularly good or bad showing.

5. Shaquill Griffin’s large role, for a rookie

Narrative Status: Worth Monitoring

With Jeremy Lane back from his undeserved hiatus, snaps went back to the veteran and away from the rookie. Griffin saw just 20 snaps last week, after playing 67 in Green Bay, under the unusual circumstances.

(Of note were the six snaps logged by Bradley McDougald as a third safety, indicating the preseason rumors of a “big nickel” package were well-founded.)

Interestingly, 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer did not target Griffin with any throws. Eight tosses in Sherman’s direction and none at the rookie. Each game will have its statistical oddities, but that one has to be near the top of the list.

Seattle Times Seahawks reporter Bob Condotta shared a number of fascinating stats gathered by Pro Football Focus:

According to PFF, Griffin was the only rookie cornerback to see at least 10 snaps in coverage this week and not have a ball thrown into his coverage. He also leads all rookie cornerbacks through two weeks with 10 tackles in the passing game, and has not missed a tackle.

6. Overall defensive dominance

Narrative Status: Holding True

We point you to a single sentence from the pilot post of this series:

If 17 points allowed at Lambeau is any indication of the future, there will be many Sundays this season when the Seahawks offense just needs to reach 14 points to emerge victorious.

One Sub-14 Sunday down. More to come, just like it. It’s going to be hard to score in bunches against a Seattle defense that is some ways reminiscent of its best predecessors.

We are tracking nine basic stats so far to gauge Seattle’s defensive prowess. One of them by itself is hardly a good evaluation, hardly a good story all its own. But all together, we might have something to marvel at, or complain about.

Points allowed: 13.0, (6th this year, would’ve been good for 1st last year)

Passing yards allowed: 187.5 (10th this year, good for 2nd last year)

Yards/attempt against: 5.9 (6th this year, good for 2nd last year)

Passer rating against: 71.5 (5th this year, good for 2nd last year)

Rushing yards allowed: 121.5 (23rd this year, good for 27th last year)

Yards/carry against: 5.2 (29th this year, good for 32nd last year)

Sacks: 6 (T-9th this year)

Takeaways: 2

Turnover margin: +1

The run defense hasn’t risen to the occasion, but how much of that is because of Carlos Hyde breaking off an uncharacteristic 61-yard what-the-hell-was-that run?

The clip above is also an excuse to give Lane his public props. Few took the opportunity Sunday to recognize him for his hustle down the line and his effort in starting the touchdown-saving tackle.

Or, just maybe, people noticed. Not a lot of people. Some people.

7. Effectiveness of the hurry-up

Narrative Status: Worth Monitoring

While it is altogether too early to chisel any conclusions in stone, it is the perfect time to write some down in pencil. And Twitter is the pencil of our decade. (Or it should be.)

If you thought Carroll was just blowing smoke when he admitted they’re considering offensive changes, time to rethink that opinion.

8. NEW: Wide receiver activity uptick for Paul Richardson, others

Narrative Status: Worth Monitoring

As promised, a look into the playing time void left by Jermaine Kearse. In Weeks 1 and 2, the following Seahawks have seen their snaps increase from 2016:

Jimmy Graham +31

Richardson +18

Amara Darboh +18

Tanner McEvoy +14

As far as targets go:

Graham +5

Richardson +4

McEvoy +3

Darboh + 2

Everyone else is holding relatively steady. There are deeper layers to be uncovered in this analytical vein; likely that after a couple more weeks, the Kearse Vacuum will be worth a post all its own.

9. NEW: Graham production is anemic

TrendCon level: 4

Everyone has bad games, but if Graham has nine total yards after two games, something is not going according to plan, not even a little bit. Seattle’s not paying him top 5 TE money for 72 yards of offense over a season, plus a decoy role, and a few decent blocks sprung along the way.

Something’s going to change in the next two weeks. Whether that’s more targets, more red zone looks, or fewer drops — Graham has not helped his cause either time out on the field — remains to be seen. But this offense isn’t going anywhere special if one of its biggest threats falls off the face of the turf.