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Field Gulls Mailbag: What’s preventing the Seahawks from being a top-tier team?

Answering questions from Seahawks fans ahead of a very difficult upcoming schedule!

Cleveland Browns v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Welcome to the pre-Thanksgiving edition of the Field Gulls Mailbag! We’re in the back-end of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2023 regular season, and it’s going to be a hell of a trek to get through these next five weeks of games against division rivals and/or playoff contenders. In all likelihood, we’ll know whether the Seahawks are playoff caliber by mid-December.

As promised, there are times when I’ll do this mailbag in written response form, and other times it’ll be done in a video. This week you get the written response, and there were some dynamite questions pertaining to the Seattle Seahawks.

Hawk2Hawk - Screen Passes

Hopefully it isn't too late to ask questions.
Is there anything specific that the team is doing that has led to an improving screen game?

I think there’s better timing, better personnel (Jaxon Smith-Njigba), and better blockers (Jake Bobo). They still haven’t figured out running back screens all that well, but they’ve figured something out with the JSN screens, and the team is sitting at a very respectable 5.3 yards per screen pass attempt. Seattle was below 5.0 yards per attempt on screen passes in three of the past five seasons, which stuns me because I thought it would’ve been all five seasons.

This sounds cliched but they’re just executing more efficiently than we’re used to seeing.

RomeoSierraA57 - Pete Carroll’s defense

The Seahawks Defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in Points Allowed, Rushing Yards Allowed and Passing Yards Allowed. This is even before the tough part of their schedule that lies ahead.
This defense has ranked below average in key metrics for several years in a row. Can Coach Carroll still be considered a good defensive Head Coach?

No he can’t. That said, I think this year’s defense is still going to be better than last year’s, and the ceiling is higher for them to be a great unit down the line just off of Boye Mafe and the young cornerbacks. However, they have spent way too much money and draft capital for mediocre results on end. The Seahawks are 21st by DVOA right now and they’ve played a very easy schedule of opposing offenses.

Seattle is doing better at defending screens, preventing YAC, and despite all the moaning about Quandre Diggs, the Seahawks remain one of the best defenses at preventing deep passes. They’re still getting wrecked on 3rd down and rank near the bottom by DVOA in defending the short middle of the field. This has been a recurring problem for years and that’s under different personnel, scheme, what have you. The overarching issue is a defense that doesn’t give up 50+ yard deep shots every week, but five 10+ yard plays that attack the weak spots in their zone-heavy scheme. Only one of these scenarios increases a defense’s snap count and time spent on the field.

Richard66 - 3rd down woes

Why are we so bad at third downs conversions, and why is the defense so bad preventing them? If we could get substantial improvements in both of those, we would be light years ahead of where we are now. This has been going on for years now, you would think they would have figured out the formula. We shouldn't have to be involved in so many 4th a 1 decisions.

The offense really cannot function in even semi-obvious passing situations. Geno Smith’s either taking sacks, throwing bad passes, or having to get rid of it because no one is open/the protection broke down. You want to see a crazy stat? Geno is 11/29 for 121 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 interceptions on 3rd and medium (4-6 yds). They’re not even putting themselves in 3rd and 7+ very often, so that’s not the cause of the 3rd down woes. The running backs have 6 catches for 11 yards TOTAL on all 3rd down pass targets, so the Seahawks also don’t make the most of their skill position players in these situations.

As for the defense, they still don’t have a consistently great pass rush to disrupt an offense. In coverage, the Seahawks just concede short and intermediate routes way too often on 3rd down. Silly penalties are also bailing opponents out on a near weekly basis.

Strong Safety Advice - Nwosu’s absence

Strong Safety Advice
How good would we be if Uchenna didn't get hurt?

Better than what the defense has generally shown over the last three games he’s missed, that’s for sure. A healthy Nwosu means Frank Clark never signs here and Darrell Taylor isn’t tasked with more than he’s realistically capable of. I think there’s a chance Seattle would’ve traded for Leonard Williams even if Nwosu didn’t get hurt, and if SI’s Albert Breer is to be believed, the Seahawks were looking at shopping Taylor before the injury.

Starkly Juxtaposed - Who’s starting in 2024?

Starkly Juxtaposed
Odds Geno is the starter next year?
Odds he's the starter in 2025?

2024 I see as a 50-50 proposition, with the odds within that season changing depending on who is backup quarterback is. I don’t think he’s still the starter by 2025, but you have to admit this has gone a hell of a lot better than you thought it would.

burleson18 - Kenny McIntosh

Going into preseason, the rookie I most wanted to see play was Kenny McIntosh. As we all know, he unfortunately suffered a knee injury. We have seen Walker and Charbonnet play half a season together and both at times seem to need more carries.
Does McIntosh have a role to fill other than special teams?

I think Kenny’s a guy to watch for 2024. Dallas is a free agent and I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs elsewhere. But when you’re a seventh-round rookie and you’ve missed all of preseason plus half the regular season with a knee injury, it becomes a lost campaign. When used in the offense, I expect him to be a receiving back and possibly a special teams returner, which he’s been before.

In other words, I’m not counting on him being a substantial contributor this year.

Sadhawk - DK Metcalf

Do we trade DK in the 2024 draft?


Longer answer: Nooooooo.

penguins4all - LVP

Who is the LVP (least valuable player) on the Seahawks roster and why is it Dee Eskridge?

Dee, Skyy Moore, and Corey Davis have seen to it that the NFL won’t take any receiver from Western Michigan early in the draft for another 20 years. And Davis was miles better than those other two and still had a career not befitting of a top-5 pick.

Thinkingblade - Uncle Will

Here's my question - where does Dissly really fit in the offense? Given how good his hands are and his size, he seems like he should be the answer for the check downs for Geno when he is having trouble finding open players down field. He was 2-2 for 22 yards against Washington and career he is over 82.5 catch percentage with 11.2 Yards per catch.
I'm not advocating for him to be a primary target, but in the red zone and on 3rd downs he seems like he has the right profile to make a huge difference for the team. Why isn't that happening? Is it the emphasis on explosive plays which he's never really going to generate a bunch of stats on?

What’s odd is it feels like the Seahawks used their tight-ends in straight dropback a lot more often last season compared to this season. This might be related to the OL issues, but it’s hard to think of too many designed targets for their tight ends in non play-action situations. Uncle Will has mostly disappeared, which I think calls into question his 2024 future. Unfortunately I fear his serious injury history has played a role in no longer being TE1, let alone a viable receiving threat.

Why not use Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, and Will Dissly as seam route options? Shoot, they don’t even have to be targeted they just have to clear some space. That’s easily been one of the more baffling aspects of Seattle’s offense this year. Forget the identity of the offense; there’s no identity within the passing attack.

K9forlife - Coby Bryant

What is the deal with Coby? When can we expect him to be back on the field?

Coby Bryant is technically ready to return from IR but they have to make room for him on the active roster. And at the moment, he’s not really needed given the cornerback and safety situation. Even before the injury I think he was on his way to losing snaps to begin with.

Skavage - The Seahawks and the top-tier

What is the number one thing that is currently impacting this team's ability to be in the top tier of the league?

“Quarterback or “Coaching” seem to be the obvious answers, right? They are components but you wanted one answer, so I’ll give you one.

Truthfully, the Seahawks lack established, elite talent in their prime years. This isn’t to say the Seahawks roster is untalented—far from the truth—but established elite talent is still not there yet.

Geno’s not an elite QB by body of work and he hasn’t been elite this year. The offensive line has been too banged up to play like an elite unit, and even when healthy we have not seen enough of either Charles Cross or Abe Lucas to definitively declare them top-10 tackles. None of the three tight ends is anywhere near George Kittle or Mark Andrews or Travis Kelce’s level. Kenneth Walker is probably a top-10 running back at this point but top-5 is a stretch. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are a great duo but individually neither one of them is a top-10 receiver, which speaks more to the outstanding crop of receivers this league currently has than denigrating either one of them.

It’s hard to argue that this is one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, and while Boye Mafe is an ascending pass rusher he’s not yet established himself as an elite edge guy. Dre’Mont Jones was paid like an elite defensive lineman but he’s not living up to his contract. Bobby Wagner is still really good but this is also not LOB-era Bobby. Jordyn Brooks is having a career season given his injury, but would you put him in the same category as Roquan Smith or Fred Warner? Would you say he’s one of the premier off-ball linebackers over the course of his four NFL seasons?

The secondary is where there’s the most excitement and room for growth. Riq Woolen I believe will play better and look more like the Riq of 2022, who was a top corner. Devon Witherspoon already looks like a top-10 corner. Tre Brown has been amazing and a decision on his future past the 2024 season looms. Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams are the longer-term question marks, primarily for age and/or salary. I still think Diggs is playing better than fans may perceive, but his inconsistent tackling is what ends up on the TV broadcast a little too often. Adams has played so infrequently that he has to earn his reputation all over again.

Seattle is talented but they do not have enough players who are quantifiably Tier 1 players right now. The Seahawks got to two Super Bowls and won one because they had widely recognized top-10 (if not top-5) players at quarterback, running back, cornerback, safety, linebacker, and defensive line.

Seattle’s talent level dipped and now we’re starting to see the cupboard get re-stocked. During that time, however, the team spent too many years rostering and starting low-ceiling players who do not contribute enough to a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, and Poona Ford were all starters on last year’s defense. Barton had some Commanders fans calling for his benching before he went to IR, Neal has been a total horror show in Tampa Bay, and Ford can’t get on the gameday roster on a decimated Bills defensive line.

The Seahawks won’t be a serious title-contending team again until they have players at multiple positions who are universally considered among the absolute best in the league. Plain and simple. Could another coach maximize the current roster more effectively than Pete Carroll? Sure, it’s possible. But almost every big game loss I can think of for the Seahawks over the past few seasons has demonstrated the gap in roster quality between themselves and the ones vying for Lombardi Trophies. If this reads like I’m absolving Pete Carroll, I’m not. He’s the one in charge of building the roster in the first place.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions! We’ll do this again during the mini-bye week after the Dallas Cowboys game.