Tue, 27 Oct 2020

Where The Seahawks Stand Heading Into The Bye

Seahawks
15 Oct 2020, 19:50 GMT+10

Breaking down the Seahawks’ 5-0 start as the team heads into its bye week.  John Boyle

The Seahawks are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history, and now are on their bye week. For players, this week is time to relax a bit, though there will be no bye-week vacationing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches, meanwhile, will use this time for a little self-scouting to see what can be improved upon after five games.

As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it on Monday, "We have to look at everything," Carroll said. "This is our chance to do that. So this is a full week of evaluations. This is a great time for us. To be where we are and have a chance to look back and fix things and get better and all that, as well as get a little healthier, this is a great time for us."

Undefeated with room to improve is always a great place to be, and with that in mind, let's take a look at where the Seahawks stand in all three phases of the game heading into a weekend off:

Offense

What's there to like: What's not to like? The Seahawks are doing so many things well on offense, from Russell Wilson playing at an MVP level to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett looking like one of the best receiver duos in the league, to Chris Carson having another great season, albeit with fewer carries, to a new-look offensive line helping make it all happen.

Wilson in particular is off to an insane start, leading the NFL in touchdown passes (19), passer rating (129.8) and touchdown percentage (11.2), while ranking second in yards per attempt (8.9) and third in completion percentage (72.8). That fast start has been aided by very good pass protection despite three new starters on the offensive line, as well as outstanding play from his pass catchers, particularly Lockett and Metcalf, the latter of whom is on pace to have the most productive season by a receiver in franchise history.

All of this has been facilitated by a shift in play-calling from the Brian Schottenheimer-led offense. The Seahawks aren't suddenly a pass-happy team-Wilson ranks only 15th in pass attempts-but what has changed is that they are throwing more often on early downs, a big factor in Wilson putting up such big numbers, and in the Seahawks being the second-highest scoring team in the league. In addition to ranking second in scoring, the Seahawks are also first in turning red-zone trips into touchdowns (88.9 percent).

What can be cleaned up: It feels like nitpicking to come up with something negative about an offense putting up 33.8 points per game, but as last week's game showed, the Seahawks can be better on third down, having converted 32.6 percent of their chances after going 0 for 7 last week.

That conversion rate ranks 31st in the NFL, but it's actually not as concerning as it might seem on the surface for one simple reason: the Seahawks aren't facing a lot of third downs relative to the rest of the league. In part due to the aforementioned shift in play-calling, the Seahawks are doing something that's even better than converting on third down: they're avoiding it all together. Through five games, the Seahawks have only had 46 third-down attempts, the second fewest in the league behind the Green Bay Packers, who have 45, and who, unsurprisingly, are the league's highest-scoring team.

And as good as the pass protection has been, Wilson has still taken 15 sacks this season, though as he has pointed out multiple times after games, plenty of those are on him for holding the ball for a long time looking to make a play. Wilson's style of play-looking to take shots down the field, scrambling to extend plays, etc.-will always lend itself to higher-than-average sack totals, but he and the entire offense would still like to see that total go down after the bye.

Defense

What's there to like: The Seahawks are tied for second in the NFL in takeaways with 10, and rank second in interceptions with seven.

That unit also has shown a real knack for coming up with big plays when the team needs them most, including a game-saving goal-line stop in a Week 2 win over New England, a fourth-and-1 stop last week that gave the ball back to the offense, which put together a game-winning drive, and a late-game interception in the end zone to preserve a win over Dallas.

And while the Vikings had success running the ball on Seattle last week, the defense has otherwise been very good against the run, allowing only 3.9 yards-per-carry, even after Minnesota's big game.

What can be cleaned up: The Seahawks have given up the most yards, first downs and passing yards in the league through five games, so obviously there's room for improvement. Some of that has had to do with game situations-the Seahawks have held double-digit second half leads in four of their five games, meaning opponents will come out firing, contributing both to big passing numbers but also the aforementioned interceptions. And it's worth noting that for all the yards the Seahawks have given up in the passing game, opposing quarterbacks have only an 89.7 passer rating, which is tied for the eighth lowest mark in the league. In other words, teams have put up a lot of yards against the Seahawks but haven't been all that efficient.

The biggest area of concern-big plays in the passing game-is one the Seahawks have already started to address in recent weeks. Through three games, the Seahawks gave up an NFL-high 33 explosive passes (16-plus yards), and while they're still last in that category, they've given up only 10 over the past two games after allowing an 11 per game through three weeks of the season.

And there's reason to believe things will improve for Seattle's defense, both because they've shown signs of progress in the past two games, and also because reinforcements should be coming soon. All-Pro safety Jamal Adams should be back after the bye for Seattle's Week 7 game at Arizona, and whether it's in that game or somewhere else down the road, the Seahawks will also add former All-Pro Damon Harrison to their defensive line, and should get defensive end Rasheem Green back from injured reserve at some point as well.

The Seahawks have not had their starting secondary on the field very often this year-Adams missed the past two games, right cornerback Quinton Dunbar missed Weeks 3 and 4, and Quandre Diggs missed almost an entire game due to an ejection for a helmet-to-helmet hit-so when that group gets some time to play together and gel, that could make a big difference to Seattle's pass defense.

Special Teams

What's there to like:Like Seattle's offense, the special teams units have done a lot right in the first five games of 2020. Michael Dickson is arguably better than when he was a first-team All-Pro in 2020, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 14 of his 22 punts, the highest total of punts inside the 20 in the league and second highest percentage. Dickson's 49.6 yards-per-punt average and 45.1 net average are also career bests and rank fifth and fourth, respectively, in the NFL.

Kicker Jason Myers has attempted only two field goals thanks to the ridiculously efficient red-zone offense, but he made them both, as well as every extra point, and his kickoffs have consistently either gone for touchbacks or been deep enough and with enough hang time to allow the coverage teams to make the stop inside the 25. And speaking of coverage, the Seahawks have been very strong in both kick and punt coverage, allowing only 17.6 yards per kick return with a long of 30, and 5.9 yards per punt return with a long of 19.

The Seahawks have also yet to be flagged for a penalty on special teams.

What can be cleaned up:Again, there isn't a lot to complain about when it comes to special teams. If anything, the Seahawks are still waiting for their first huge play like a big return or a blocked punt. There have been blocked kicks as well as a forced fumble on what otherwise would have been successful fake punt by Atlanta, but if we're trying to find something for this unit to do better after such a strong start, perhaps a long return for a touchdown or a blocked punt that sets up a score would be about all that's left. That or let Michael Dickson run it out of the end zone again like he did in Detroit two years ago.

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