The good news is the defense is back.
The bad news is why does this feel like the fourth year in a row when either offense or defense can be good, but never both?
The good news is the offense is completely fixable. In fact, I expect it will resolve itself without too much effort.
We’ll start with the obvious.
Geno Smith has not yet been as good as he was in his most sparkling moments last year, but he’s also not been bad - not until Sunday, at least.
He’s also never had anything close to the intended starting offensive line, and he’s still managed to play at a winnable level, again until the Cincinnati Bengals showed up.
And show up they did.
The Bengals became the fourth defense to have four different players generate at least six pressures in a game since 2020.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 15, 2023
Sam Hubbard led the Bengals pass rush with 9 pressures, 8 of which came against the Seahawks right tackle Jake Curhan.#SEAvsCIN | #RuleTheJungle pic.twitter.com/KvjcmvUunn
Geno Smith’s line was bleh. 27/41, 323 yards(!), 0 TD 2 INT, passer rating of 69.5
Did you know that Russell Wilson has had 22 games in his career with a worse passer rating than 69.5? For those wondering, only four of those games have come in Denver.
My point in that is this: fans of the Seattle Seahawks are well-acquainted with how a pass rush can make a quarterback get weird.
Smith unfortunately got weird, but he wasn’t a train wreck all over the field. He was bad, but he was bad primarily with a couple of boneheaded throws followed largely by hesitancy. That’s explainable; it’s reactionary.
And it can legitimately be contributed to how bad Jake Curhan has played lately. Damien Lewis was out, so Anthony Bradford got the start meaning once again Seattle was down two linemen.
According to PFF's game review, the Bengals had Geno Smith under pressure on around 50% of his dropbacks.— Jake Liscow (@JakeLiscow) October 15, 2023
Smith, who has demonstrated both elite pocket maneuverability and proclivity to sling it, didn’t do his best of either against the Bengals.
It’s simply not sustainable. Now that’s not a solution; it’s an explanation of the symptoms. Here are the three primary reasons I think this is going to go away, and soon.
Abe Lucas / Right Tackle / Arizona
Unfortunately, the wrong tackle returned from an injury quicker. I don’t mean Lucas is better than Charles Cross, but that Stone Forsythe was better than Curhan. Whether they try Forsythe on the right or finally activate Jason Peters, or another fun option, it...can’t be Curhan again right?
Regardless, the Arizona Cardinals are the type of team the Seahawks can survive even with right tackle being an extreme liability. The news that Lucas isn’t available this Sunday is incredibly unfortunate, but hopefully still in the cards for him to return soon. It cannot be overstated how massive this would be.
Weird lack of correct play calling
In the Cincinnati loss, the three tight ends had five combined catches totaling 29 yards. That’s really bad. But more than bad, it’s an obvious exclamation point that Shane Waldron didn’t run any of the extremely effective tight end bootleg plays that have been his staple.
As Mookie pointed out in Winners/Losers, Zach Charbonnet had two carries and the return of Charles Cross - for whatever reason - coincided with a departure from typically good play calling. I’ve been a big fan of Shane Waldron since he got here, but this game was odd. Yes, made more so by the ghost of Geno Smith fighting for his life out there, but even that’s a point against Waldron. Make an adjustment of some kind! Why did he not shift the pocket or get outside of it hardly at all? Why with Kenneth Walker breaking three tackles to gain 2.5 yards not get him the ball in space even more?
Waldron has proven that he has an ability to adjust from week to week, if not within the game. I’m not worried about this element in the slightest.
JSN FTW etc.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, ladies and gentlemen.
What you’re looking at, is a neither a -screen pass nor a 5-yard out. This is real football here.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the middle of the field. pic.twitter.com/5lCTphsPNy— Rapinas do Mar (Cortes) (@cortesrapinas) October 15, 2023
Clearly pieces of the offense are still very much intact, if not continuing to come together. Smith-Njigba went 4 for 48 yards, which is a marked improvement over the first few weeks. He had another touchdown in the making but Geno didn’t make the throw. This conversation this week has been all about decision making, which some people continually hold against him, but I think was drastically affected by the Bengals. The weapons are there, and JSN was really the last piece for Seattle to figure out how to use.
I believe they’ve now kicked the tires on all five facets of the offense. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are known quantities, as are the tight ends. Walker does what he does, Charbonnet’s made his mark, Jake Bobo and Smith-Njigba have shown their skillset.
In short, I trust the three biggest issues that presented themselves on Sunday have available solutions.
Offensive line - horrendous but primarily limited to the right end. Can be fixed or schemed.
Play calling, was not appropriate for the opponent and especially bad in the red zone - do better, Waldron.
Playmakers - not the problem, and the range of skillsets is as wide as the Broncos are bad.