The Seahawks have reached a pivotal point in their season, for a pair of reasons. After starting the year playing better than ever before, Russell Wilson just went through possibly the worst month of his NFL career. While there is no concern this is a long-term issue, Wilson has to bounce back immediately.
With a quick turnaround to Thursday Night Football before a mini bye week, Seattle will be provided with a chance to start fresh ahead of the final six games of the season. While the negativity around the Seahawks at this moment is suffocating, the break between Week 11 and 12 will give Seattle a chance to get healthy and implement adjustments and changes that will have a major impact on the remainder of their season.
The Seahawks are firmly in the mix in the NFL, despite their flaws. However, some welcome changes could be made.
Jordyn Brooks alongside Bobby Wagner
It’s the same argument made (by me) a year ago, for Cody Barton to take snaps away from K.J. Wright. Though Wright is certainly the superior player right now, the combination of he and Wagner in sub packages leaves Seattle woefully slow at the second level. To insert Brooks would be to give the defense a massive shot of play speed in the front seven; every time he has flashed this season it has been a refreshing sight. And while Brooks’ ability to diagnose in the passing game isn’t on the same level as Wright, he has an unparalleled ability to carry running backs and tight ends downfield.
If you have reservations about Jordyn Brooks' ability to carry TEs downfield this is exactly what you want to see. Opens up and runs with Dan Arnold downfield without issue pic.twitter.com/ts6QES2khe— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) October 27, 2020
Brooks doesn’t need to be Wagner’s running mate on every snap in nickel. There will certainly be times where Wright is the better option to have out there. But as it stands, there is no split. A fifth defensive back comes in, Brooks comes out. The defense could benefit from that changing, if only on occasion.
More Russell Wilson called runs
Ever since Wilson began bulking up and refining his game from the pocket, the number of called runs for him has decreased. And that has been a mistake. Despite Wilson’s waning athleticism, there should be a handful of plays every game that gives him the option to keep it, tuck it, and run. He is simply too intelligent as a decision-maker and as a runner—and the Seahawks could use a boost on the ground.
Days like last Sunday, when Wilson appeared completely out of sorts, is the perfect spot to go back to options for him. Not only is it easy yardage but it allows him to get into a rhythm. It doesn’t need to be six or seven keepers a game, as he had early in his career, but two or three called runs in the right situations would have only a positive impact.
Find an answer for the blitz
For all of the attention the defense has received for their attachment to the blitz this season, the offense has been woeful at handling it themselves. The last month has seen Wilson and the offense overwhelmed by pressure, whether it was from the Cardinals in the fourth quarter and overtime, against the Bills, or the Rams. The most unnerving part has been the lack of response from Wilson, Brian Schottenheimer, and the offense. Teams are aware of the way it can derail the offense.
For what it's worth, Wilson was blitzed quite a bit last season too. But this year he could wind up as the most blitzed QB in the NFL. He's 14 behind Allen and 26 behind Jones but their bye weeks haven't happened yet.— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) November 16, 2020
The next time a defense decides to crank up the pressure and send extra defenders, Seattle’s offense must have a response. Last season, we saw them adjust to heavy pressure in two very different ways. Early in the season, against the Steelers, the Seahawks adjusted to Pittsburgh’s constant pressure by spreading the offense out and going to the quick game. That resulted in Wilson setting a time-to-throw record and carving the Steelers apart. Alternatively, in an ugly loss in Los Angeles, Seattle found a brief reprieve from offensive sluggishness by bringing in two additional linemen and giving Wilson plenty of time behind seven blockers. Though they didn’t stay with it, the extra protection led to the best stretch of the night from the offense.
It doesn’t need to be just one answer—but there has to be an answer. The alternative was the last month of Seahawks football, which all too often featured Wilson and an offense without answers.
Involve a tight end
In the early part of the season, David Moore emerged as a legitimate third option for an offense that needed one. However, that hasn’t been the case as of late and the result is a repeat of late last season when a hobbled Tyler Lockett and rookie DK Metcalf led to Wilson and Seattle’s offense stalling constantly. To avoid a continuation of that issue, one of the tight ends needs to be involved more often—whether it’s Will Dissly, Greg Olsen, or Jacob Hollister.
One of the more curious developments this season has been the relatively anonymous role of the tight end in the Seahawks’ offense. While Dissly and Hollister have previously found success in Schottenheimer’s offense, the position has largely been a non-factor in the passing game this year. (Through ten weeks a year ago, Dissly, who was lost for the season in Week 6, and Hollister had combined for 51 targets. So far this season, those two plus Olsen have combined for 55.) Whether that’s due to Olsen’s declining ability, Dissly’s slow return to full health, or the amount of oxygen taken up by Metcalf and Lockett, it doesn’t matter at this stage. What matters is correcting it.
Against the Bills, Hollister put on a reminder of why he emerged as a Wilson favorite a year ago and why he can help this season. If Olsen and Dissly are unable to contribute in a meaningful way, Hollister can—and should. There are too many talented pass catchers in Seattle’s offense for them to appear devoid of options, as they have in spurts recently.
Poona Ford: pass rusher
This is more a request for a continuation, rather than a change. Over the offseason, Ford told me he had been training with Cliff Avril and working to improve as a pass rusher. That improvement has come along with a greater opportunity.
Through nine games, Ford has rushed the passer on 210 snaps, on pace to blow past his previous high (240 in 2019). The nose tackle has exceeded career highs in QB hits, hurries, and pressures, and has created opportunities for himself and teammates.
Great rush from Poona Ford to pressure Josh Allen and create a sack for Jarran Reed pic.twitter.com/OWGdA1xW9X— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) November 11, 2020
With Carlos Dunlap limited to the outside for the time being and Rasheem Green being eased back into the rotation after a neck injury, the defense has limited options inside on passing downs. Even if Ford isn’t finishing pass rushes off, he is creating pressure and forcing the quarterback off his spot from the interior.
Continue to cut Ford loose against the pass and he will continue to make plays for himself and his linemates.
Rush four Cover-3
Just get back to what you know.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the Seahawks’ second-half performance against the Rams on defense was how it came, predominately sending a four man rush. While blitzing has occasionally resulted in big plays or dominant performances, it has also resulted in a banged-up secondary getting exposed time and time again.
If suffering 1000 papercuts while rushing only four means finishing as the 20th ranked defense, it still beats taking a bazooka to the chest while blitzing at a wild rate as the 32nd ranked defense, with occasional high points.
Seattle should soon be healthy on defense and when they are, they have the personnel to be good enough. Good enough to get back to what they traditionally do, good enough to not actively lose games for the team, and good enough to allow Wilson and an offense capable of lethal performances to carry them.