Russell Wilson: 31 sacks and 60 hits in first half of season

Russell Wilson: 31 sacks and 60 hits in first half of season

Back at the outset of this Seattle Seahawks 2015 season I wrote an article in which I made the following comment:[1]

“The Hawks may struggle out of the gate a bit, but I fully expect that by mid season they will be hitting on all cylinders, much like they were during the final six games of last season. I have seen Pete Carroll’s magic too often over the last few years to think otherwise. My advice to all of you “twelves” is to enjoy the season, and don’t get too low should the team rack up a few losses across the first few games.” 

Now here we are, two months and eight games (4 losses) into this 2015 season, and I must confess to you that, though my prediction of a few losses was obviously correct, I am having a hard time taking my own advice. It is not that I have lost hope for this season; it’s that Seattle has been most “un-Hawks like” through these first eight games. The Seahawks we’ve all come to know across the last three campaigns are, at their best, an efficient, run oriented offense that doesn’t turn the ball over and sustains drives; as well as a stifling defensive unit built from the back end forward with shut-down LOB defensive backs, quick and hard hitting line backers and a tough, seasoned defensive line that gets after the opposing quarterback and shuts down the run. Between both of these units, once they get the lead in a game they usually don’t lose it. They close out football games.

So who are these imposters we have witnessed blowing leads across the first half of this season? In tilts against the Rams, Cincinnati and Carolina (three of Seattle’s four losses) the Hawks gave up late game touchdown passes to wide open tight ends (Lance Kendricks vs. Rams, Tyler Eifert vs. Bengals and Greg Olsen vs. Panthers). Seattle also very nearly blew a 4th quarter lead at home against the 1-7 Detroit Lions, needing a miraculous play by Kam Chancellor to avert another loss. Missing Chancellor due to his holdout does not explain it as he was playing in all but the Rams game. Also, shutting down the opposing team’s tight end is a specialty of his, which makes these lapses even more baffling. It appears over the last two games, victories over the 49ers and Cowboys, that the Hawks “D” has returned to its dominating ways; but it remains to be seen if that appearance is fool’s gold. Against San Francisco the Hawks faced a team with a quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, whose confidence has been shattered; and the Cowboys were Romo-less in Dallas with All World receiver Dez Bryant coming off a broken foot. [2]

Jimmy Graham has not helped Hawks in red zone

Jimmy Graham has not helped Hawks in red zone

To say that the Seahawks offense has also struggled this season would be an understatement. In fact, some of the defensive problems never would have manifested had the offense been able to get a first down to sustain late game possessions. There is truth in the statement that sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and the Hawks absence of offense has demonstrated that truth. Statistically Seattle is 24th (of 32 teams) in the NFL in scoring (20.9 points per game), 19th in yards per game (353.1) 28th in passing yards per game (213.6) and dead last in red zone efficiency (29.41 per cent). The deal to acquire tight end Jimmy Graham (38 catches, 450 yards, 2 scores) which cost Seattle its Pro Bowl center Max Unger and which was done largely to remedy Seattle’s red zone woes, to this point has not born the kind of fruit Pete Carroll was hoping for. It’s no secret that much of the problem centers on the young and inexperienced offensive line. Seattle has surrendered a league high 31 sacks through these first eight games, with quarterback Russell Wilson, despite his nimbleness, taking 60 hits; a figure that is 6th worst in the league. At times during games this season I have literally feared for Wilson’s life, so quickly have opposing defenses gotten through to him. The line played better in the Dallas game, with Wilson not being sacked once for the first time this season; but if Seattle is to have any kind of a second half run the offensive line simply must come together as a unit and play better.

Things aren’t all bad. Despite their lapses the Hawks defense is number two in the league in yards allowed (284.9) and also number two in points allowed (17.5). Defensive linemen Michael Bennett (6.5 sacks) and Cliff Avril (3.5 sacks) and linebacker KJ Wright (leads the team in tackles) are having stellar seasons. On offense Seattle has the third best rushing attack in the league with an average of 139.5 yards per game. That the Hawks have done this well running the ball with Marshawn Lynch missing as much time as he has and the inexperienced offensive line is one of the positives of this season’s first half. Seattle seems to have found another diamond in the rough in rookie and undrafted free agent running back Thomas Rawls (376 yards rushing and 5.4 yards per carry average) who has filled in ably for Lynch when needed. Rookie returner and wide receiver Tyler Lockett (20 catches, 253 yards and one TD plus a punt return TD) has also had some shining moments.

Linebacker KJ Wright is having a stellar season

Linebacker KJ Wright is having a stellar season

Overall, however, both the offense and defense have simply been too inconsistent, and unless that changes the Seahawks run of NFC championships and Super Bowl appearances comes to an end in this 2015-16 season. Personally I think they will improve and have already shown signs of that improvement in these last two games. But neither the 49ers nor the Cowboys are as good as the Arizona Cardinals, the team the Seahawks face on Sunday Night Football this weekend at “The Clink” in Seattle. Arizona currently sits atop the NFC West Division with a 6-2 record, and with Seattle at 4-4 this game is of the “must win” category if the Hawks are to have a chance at catching the Cardinals and winning the Division title. The NFC is tough this year. Both the Cardinals and the Packers are 6-2 and the Carolina Panthers are undefeated at 9-0. Likely Seattle has already blown the chance for the best record in the Conference and therefore even if they win the Division will not have the home field advantage and first round bye in the playoffs they have enjoyed these past two Super Bowl seasons. That doesn’t mean the Super Bowl is out of the question, but it surely would take a different, and tougher, route to get there.

Are the Seahawks capable of the kind of run it will take to pull that off? I think they definitely are. But their performance against the Cardinals this weekend will speak volumes. Pete Carroll and company have got to bring it this Sunday, and we will know by game’s end if the Hawks are up to the challenge of this season.

I think they will be up to that challenge. Despite it all, I have faith in this team. I truly think that for the Seattle Seahawks in this 2015 season, the best is yet to come.

Go Hawks!!!

Copyright © 2015

By Mark Arnold

All Rights Reserved

[1] Please see http://fromanativeson.com/2015/09/13/sans-chancellor-seahawks-launch-quest-for-historic-third-straight-super-bowl-by-mark-arnold/

[2] Bryant broke a bone in his foot in the Cowboys first game this season and didn’t return to the lineup until the Seahawks played the Cowboys in Week 8 in Dallas

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