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All-22 Musings: K.J. Wright continues to prove instincts don’t age

Seattle Seahawks v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Seahawks went to Miami with some fearing a trap game against the Dolphins. They returned to Seattle 4-0 and just as healthy as they departed, with the latter almost as crucial to their season as the former for a banged up Seahawks squad. Though Russell Wilson cooled off a bit (if “cooled off” is 360 yards, two scores, and 71% completion), the offense had no troubles moving the ball, while the defense showed flashes of coming alive despite missing several starters.

All that and more, below.

[MIA 2-1 MIA 34] (14:22) R.Hunt reported in as eligible. M.Gaskin right tackle to MIA 37 for 3 yards (C.Barton; B.Wagner)

Ryan Neal was one of the bright spots on Sunday, playing well and snagging another interception in first career NFL start. He began the day in an active manner, fighting off the block of Durham Smythe at the point of attack and helping to blow up the Dolphins’ run.

[MIA 2-5 MIA 42] (13:03) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep left intended for D.Smythe INTERCEPTED by R.Neal (C.Barton) at SEA 42. R.Neal to SEA 43 for 1 yard (J.Grant)

The Neal interception begins with a very good rush from Benson Mayowa, who came screaming around the corner and just about got a strip sack on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cody Barton, who continues to display high-level coverage ability, comes over the top of Smythe and what should have been an interception turns into a looping beach ball, which Neal eagerly collects.

[SEA 2-5 SEA 48] (12:15) R.Wilson pass deep right to D.Metcalf to MIA 15 for 37 yards (X.Howard)

A fantastic display of touch and placement from Russell Wilson on his deep shot early down the sideline to DK Metcalf, over the outstretched hand of Xavien Howard.

[SEA 1-10 SEA 21] (8:14) R.Wilson pass short right to F.Swain pushed ob at SEA 44 for 23 yards (E.Roberts)

This was one of my favorite plays from Seattle’s win over the Dolphins, if only for its simplicity. Freddie Swain may not be a refined route runner, capable of shaking defenders in and out of his breaks, but he can absolutely make things happen with the ball in his hands. Pre-snap motion to the field side sees Swain in wide open space and a quick throw gives him a run after catch opportunity. They won’t all be this wide open, but the Seahawks should be scheming up a few plays per game like this for Swain.

[MIA 1-10 MIA 23] (6:35) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short right to P.Williams (K.Wright)

This is not a place to criticize K.J. Wright for a trio of could-have-been interceptions in Week 4. This is a place to celebrate Wright, a 31-year-old linebacker with declining physical skills, holding off father time through mastery of the position. He does well here to continuously adjust the angle and depth of his drop, eyes locked onto Fitzpatrick, to get into a position to break up the pass.

[MIA 2-13 SEA 23] (2:48) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete deep right to I.Ford (U.Amadi)

Ugo Amadi does brilliantly defending a deep shot on a 2nd and long, keeping square with Isaiah Ford before opening up his hips and running with him, checking back to Fitzpatrick and making a play on the ball as it arrives. Not only is Amadi performing really well in an increased opportunity but he is playing with a ton of confidence.

[MIA 3-13 SEA 23] (2:43) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short left to M.Gaskin (R.Neal)

Tough not to love the recognition and timing on the big hit from Neal, but most of all, how do you not love this:

This play made Kam Chancellor especially proud, no doubt.

[SEA 2-6 SEA 43] (1:41) R.Wilson pass deep middle to D.Metcalf to MIA 38 for 19 yards (J.Perry)

I have been an advocate of Metcalf being used over the middle for a number of reasons, one of which is on full display on this 19-yard reception. Just look at the respect the opposing cornerback has for Metcalf’s ability to go deep, first giving up inside leverage and then, even after Metcalf has taken several strides over the middle of the field, getting completely turned around by the slightest step upfield by Metcalf at the top of his route. The savviness of Metcalf and the respect defenders must have for his ability to win deep both happening here.

[MIA 3-3 SEA 11] (11:33) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short middle to I.Ford (K.Wright)

Another outstanding moment from Wright in coverage, reading Fitzpatrick’s eyes and coming across to undercut the route, halting what would have been a touchdown. It could have been an interception, yes, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an intelligent, crucial play.

[SEA 1-10 SEA 11] (11:19) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to D.Metcalf to SEA 29 for 18 yards (J.Perry)

While this Metcalf catch is not particularly special, it’s a good play from the sophomore nonetheless. First, Metcalf does well to release off the line of scrimmage and get off the cornerback’s jam. Then, as the ball arrives, Metcalf adjusts nicely and hauls in the pass before taking contact.

[SEA 1-10 SEA 29] (10:38) D.Dallas left guard to SEA 35 for 6 yards (E.Roberts)

DeeJay Dallas’s first career carry was a great example of what he does well as a runner. He does well to spot the cutback lane, has a nice jump cut in order to hit it effectively, then a sprinkle of contact balance as he stays on his feet with defenders rallying around him. Nothing looked too big for Dallas in his first NFL snaps.

[MIA 2-13 MIA 46] (2:00) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep middle to D.Parker to SEA 33 for 21 yards (Q.Diggs) [P.Ford]

More than anything, this rush from Poona Ford is just an example of how rare a body type and athlete he is. Ford goes from the left guard’s outside shoulder to trying to bend the corner on the left tackle, and actually doing a good job of it before he goes to the ground as he approaches Fitzpatrick. There is something more to Ford as a pass rusher this year. It seems like a matter of time until his disruptiveness as a run defender translates, in a few instances, to the passing game.

[SEA 2-Goal MIA 3] (:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to T.Homer for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN

Wilson said he “whistled” the ball into Travis Homer for the touchdown at the end of the half and uh, yeah, that is a fair assessment. A downright Favre-ian fastball over the middle from Wilson.

(An aside: Great to see Homer get his first career touchdown near his hometown and in the same stadium where he played college ball. Homer, who has been unfairly maligned this season, does everything right and really deserved a cool moment like this.)

[SEA 1-10 MIA 46] (12:07) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to D.Moore to MIA 25 for 21 yards (B.McCain)

Before my clamoring for the Seahawks to scheme Swain into space, there was clamoring for David Moore to be schemed into space. As his role has developed into a deep threat and jump ball specialist, his fluidity in the open field has been forgotten a little. Moore is a phenomenal athlete and moves so well—Seattle tried him at running back once upon a time—and he shows that here, freezing Andrew Van Ginkel and turning a loss into a gain of 21.

[SEA 1-10 MIA 25] (11:34) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to C.Carson pushed ob at MIA 14 for 11 yards (N.Igbinoghene)

Chris Carson is a superhero. What else is there to say? Continuing to break a promise to his mother, Carson effortlessly hurdles the defender and gets up—even for his standards. What truly amazes me though, since Carson has normalized jumping over other fully grown adults, is that he maintains his balance after taking a body check moments after his feet return to the ground. That is absolutely crazy. Chris Carson is a superhero.

[MIA 1-10 SEA 30] (5:44) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right to M.Breida to SEA 29 for 1 yard (K.Wright)

Kenneth. Bernard. Wright. Jr. What a linebacker. What a brilliant football mind. Instincts don’t age and because of that, Wright’s play is aging like a fine wine.

[MIA 1-10 MIA 16] (1:30) (Shotgun) J.Howard right tackle to MIA 15 for -1 yards (B.Mayowa)

Week 4 was the first week where I felt Mayowa met my expectations as a pass rusher and a run defender. It came against a poor offensive line, so hopefully it is something he can build upon. It’s a great run stop here by Mayowa, fending off a pair of block attempts before halting Jordan Howard for a loss. The Seahawks need more from their starting LEO and they got it on Sunday.

[MIA 2-6 MIA 36] (15:00) (Shotgun) M.Gaskin up the middle to MIA 35 for -1 yards (P.Ford)

Poona Ford and L.J. Collier are quickly becoming a fun duo to watch absolutely ruin runs at the line of scrimmage, such is their relentlessness. It’s all those two here, throwing the middle of Miami’s line into a blender before Ford emerges from the fray and stuffs Myles Gaskin for a loss.

[MIA 2-7 MIA 47] (13:03) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right to J.Howard to MIA 43 for -4 yards (K.Wright). FUMBLES (K.Wright), recovered by MIA-J.Davis at MIA 44. J.Davis to MIA 44 for no gain (A.Rush)

Wright’s recognition of screen passes and ability to get underneath blockers is second-to-none. We saw it last week, we see it here, we have seen it for a decade. Don’t take Wright for granted.

[MIA 2-10 SEA 40] (11:47) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short middle to M.Gesicki (K.Wright)

A 31-year-old linebacker matched up with a 99th percentile athlete in the slot and it ends up in a pass breakup? That linebacker must be pretty special. Why yes, he is. Wright is marvelous and he knows it.

[MIA 1-10 SEA 16] (10:08) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete deep middle to M.Gesicki (Sq.Griffin)

At some point, Shaquill Griffin is going to turn one of his semi-regular spectacular pass breakups into a truly spectacular interception. When that day comes, we will be here to cover it.

(A slight tangent: Griffin was excellent in Week 4, allowing just one completion while registering a pick and a pass breakup. Before a hamstring injury last season, Griffin’s coverage numbers were up there with the best cornerbacks in the NFL. It was a rough start to the year, but if Griffin can get those coverage numbers back up, while continuing to produce PBUs and add a few interceptions, he could have an All-Pro season in a contract year.)

[MIA 3-3 SEA 9] (9:18) (Shotgun) M.Gaskin left tackle to SEA 11 for -2 yards (A.Robinson)

One of the more frequent genres of splash plays Alton Robinson made at Syracuse was a run stop as the backside defender, coming unblocked off the edge and chasing down the ballcarrier. That’s now the second of those in as many weeks he has made with Seattle. Robinson has made plays in nearly every situation through two weeks and his opportunities should only increase with time.

[SEA 3-6 SEA 35] (14:09) (Shotgun) R.Wilson scrambles up the middle to SEA 43 for 8 yards (Z.Sieler)

A modest gain for Wilson is only made possible by Homer correctly identifying where the pressure is coming from, getting across, and taking on the defender with aggression. I have seen some getting frustrated with Homer for a few carries that go nowhere, but not every player is the complete package. Homer is a reliable, intelligent safety valve as a pass catcher and tough as hell in pass protection. There’s a reason he continues to get snaps.

[MIA 2-1 MIA 34] (5:03) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short right to I.Ford (U.Amadi)

Amadi’s confidence level is again on display here, with the nickel trusting his eyes and breaking on the ball without hesitation, forcing an incompletion as a result. He has been a revelation in the secondary.

[SEA 1-10 MIA 33] (4:16) R.Wilson pass short right to D.Metcalf pushed ob at MIA 1 for 32 yards (B.McCain)

In 2019, Wilson was 9-for-9 throwing screen passes to Metcalf, for an average of 8.8 yards per reception. It quickly became a reliable clock-killer toward the end of games, with Metcalf charging forward with intent. Here, we see the other possible result of a screen to Metcalf, as the phenom goes full runaway train, steaming down the sideline with defenders bouncing off of him. Screens, go balls, over the middle—Metcalf is becoming more and more impossible to defend.