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The Seahawks are back

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Were they ever gone? We did wonder

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
pictured: bradley mc do good
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There were questions. Surrounding the 2018 Seattle Seahawks.

They are answering every single damn one, and in the right way too.

After a ho-hum 9-7 campaign that claimed the jobs of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Kris Richard, offensive line coach Tom Cable, and various beloved/polarizing players, there were questions. Specifically:

  • Will the rushing attack suck again? It was so bad last year.
  • Will the offensive line ever be okay? Ever?
  • Will Russell Wilson ever look like 2015 Russell Wilson again?
  • Will Brian Schottenheimer be a terrible hire?
  • Will the Seahawks be able to compete with the NFL’s elite, and most pertinently, the Los Angeles Rams?
  • Will they be a playoff team — heck, will they even be a winning team?
  • Has Pete Carroll lost his touch?

Let’s take these one by one, and see if the answer is favorable to Seattle. But you already know it will be, they will be, they all will be. Because the Seahawks are back. Which makes sense. They were never all the way gone, just on a short detour to relative irrelevance. Their exile has ended, before it even had a chance to begin.

Will the rushing attack suck again?

2017 was unforgettable, for how forgettable the Seattle running backs and offensive line performed.

One rushing touchdown from running backs. Three RBs in the bottom five in DYAR. No consistent holes to dart through. 3.3 yards per carry for running backs. No runner over 240 yards besides Wilson. Red zone failure after red zone failure.

Suddenly, everyone who watches tape comes to the same conclusion: the run blocking in 2018 looks like a different team. Linemen are winning at the point of attack, creating holes, and making it much easier on Carson and others to avoid negative/unsuccessful plays.

Carson is 13th in the NFL in success rate, right between Joe Mixon and Ezekiel Elliott. On November 30, Carson was 4th in yards per carry after contact and 3rd in total yards after contact. Rashaad Penny is getting better by the week. Mike Davis is a complete back who can carry the load when necessary.

A team committed to the ground game (47 rushes and 22 passes on Monday night, after 29 rushes and 20 passes the week before) needs to be good at rushing. The Seahawks picked a good year to figure it out, again.

Will the offensive line ever be okay?

They’re okay now. Some say they’re good. Wilson still takes too many hits and spins into too many sacks. But those are shared faults between him and his linemen. This year, there are consistent pockets. It’s no coincidence that even after Monday night’s terrible game, Wilson carries his highest career passer rating (111.0) into Week 14.

Now that running is such a large part of Seattle’s identity, probably it’s good that they’re:

  • 16th in adjusted line yards
  • 13th in RB yards
  • 5th in power success
  • 9th best in stuffed.

Not only are they good enough now to stop costing the Seahawks games in both run blocking and pass protection, they’re deep. Jordan Simmons is a backup guard. In his last two games, as starter D.J. Fluker sits injured, Seattle has averaged 191 yards rushing.

Ethan Pocic, the team’s second-round draft pick a year ago, awaits on the bench. He’s shown promise and has actual experience starting too.

George Fant is Seattle’s frequently used sixth offensive lineman. Nothing about his performance suggests he is anything less than starter quality.

Joey Hunt is probably the ninth man on the depth chart and the least known quantity. Point is, if Fluker returns this season, the Seahawks are at least eight men deep on the offensive line. Suddenly, the OL is a strength, not a liability. I typed that with a straight face and you read it with one. Question answered.

Will Russell Wilson ever look like 2015 Russell Wilson again?

He has! For a 10-game stretch this year, he threw 24 TDs to just two interceptions. During that time, his passer rating log is a little Madden-y, and we do not mean Tre. 109.8 was his third-lowest rating during that time, and he topped 120 on six occasions.

However. Excluding his bad games in Chicago and on Monday Night Football in Week 14 is pretty poor form. So instead, let’s compare his entire 2015 to his entire 2018.

2015: 68.1 comp.%, 7.0 TD%, 1.7 INT%, 8.3 Y/A, 110.1 passer rating

2018: 65.6 comp%, 8.4 TD%, 1.7 INT%, 8.1 Y/A, 111.0 passer rating

Wilson’s also running smarter than before: 5.9 yards per carry, quite a bit better than his 5.2 combined from the past three seasons. While on pace for a career-low 63 rushes. His ground game matters. Running quarterbacks matter.

On a day that Wilson was terrible (10-20-72-0-1), he still made a play of the game. That’s also part of the magic of RW.

Will Brian Schottenheimer be a terrible hire?

All signs pointed to “maybe” in the offseason, and the dial teased toward “yes” early in the season. But. Here’s the thing. The points are the thing.

2016 scoring: 22.1 ppg

2017 scoring: 22.9 ppg

2018 scoring: 26.2 ppg

Darrell Bevell’s last two years in Seattle were nothing to brag about.

In addition, the Seahawks are not getting off to as bad of starts as they did last year.

2017 Q1 points: 3.5

2018 Q1 points: 4.5

Expanding to the first half —

2017 first-half points: 7.8

2018 first-half points: 12.8

Schottenheimer hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t made the offense worse. You can attribute a lot of the offense’s success to Wilson playing out of his mind for a stretch, to Mike Solari working some magic along the OL, to Carson fighting through tackle after tackle after tackle. But to believe Schotty’s been bad is very hard, in the face of mounting statistical evidence.

Will the Seahawks be able to compete with the NFL’s elite, and most pertinently, the Los Angeles Rams?

In both games with the Rams, Seattle had the ball with a chance to take the lead in the closing minutes of regulation. 42-7 was a painful game nobody should remember and should never be referenced, oops. It’s also specific to the 2017 Seahawks, not the 2018 edition.

Will they be a playoff team — heck, will they even be a winning team?

They’ll be both. In a year without a real TE1, a real DE2 and injuries to two of their most important pieces, Earl Thomas and Doug Baldwin. Which brings us to...

Has Pete Carroll lost his touch?

The development of, oh, EVERYONE across the defense compels me to state the most unequivocal of no’s. Bradley McDougald, Tre Flowers, Justin Coleman, Jarran Reed, Jacob Martin and Austin Calitro aren’t household names. Some Seahawks fans wouldn’t even have known who they all were in August. Carroll is turning these players into stars, before our eyes. Just like he did with the great ones that preceded them.

The defense has had its struggles. Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and sometimes the opposite. There can be no denying, however, that the core of a new defense, a replacement for the Legion, a Fearsome Front or a Waginot Line (history puns forever!) is in the works.

Clark, Coleman, Flowers, Griffin and Martin are all 23 or 25 years old. Rasheem Green is 21. Wagner and another linebacker, whoever it is, are instantly among the league’s best duos. Reed headlines a group of young defensive tackles that looks promising.

In the past two weeks, the defense has allowed three touchdowns. Two of those were in garbage time.

The Seahawks defense is most certainly not top 10 in yards allowed. But before Monday night, they were top ten in third-down defense, fourth-down defense, and red zone defense. Those numbers probably improved. Unsurprisingly, they’re ninth in scoring defense. Because the more it matters, the better they get.

Well, now we’re about to embark on the part of the season where everything matters more. We’ll see if this defense is ready to dominate in 2018, or if they’re a year off. Either way, Carroll is building something again, out of spare parts and youngsters. Just like he did at the start of this decade. That turned out okay.