Posted: 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013
By Brett Kollmann
What's that? You're busy watching college football? Not anymore you're not. Danny Kelly from Battle Red Blog's sister site, Field Gulls, has taken some time off from writing his stellar X's and O's articles to answer my five most burning questions of his beloved Seahawks.
1. There is a common perception that Seattle is a complete different team when playing on the road versus playing at home. How do you respond to that?
It's fair to say that Seattle has a very good home field advantage at the CLink and generally speaking they're pretty hard to beat at home (finished 8-0 in 2012 and are 2-0 this season), but the truth of the matter is, the Hawks aren't as bad on the road as everyone nationally seems to think they are. They're 4-1 in their last five road games (the loss coming to Atlanta in the Divisional Round Playoffs), so while Seattle's 'road woes' are often cited by national and local media alike, I think it's overblown a bit, particularly because of the nature of the Seahawk losses on the road.
For context (CONTEXT, NOT EXCUSES haha): They lost at Arizona Week 1 in Russell Wilson's first start, and he had five or six shots at the end zone with under a minute left that would have won the game. He came up empty on all of them. Seattle lost at St. Louis in Week 4 (19-13), again to the Niners in Week 7 (13-6), the Lions in Week 8 (28-24), then the Dolphins in Week 12 (24-21). Since then, the Hawks have won at Chicago - generally acknowledged as Russell Wilson's 'breakout game' where they took restrictions off of him - (23-17), at Buffalo, in Toronto (50-17), at Washington (24-14) in the Playoffs, and lost to the Falcons in the Divisional Round on a last-second field goal 30-28. They beat the Panthers 12-7 in Carolina Week 1 this year.
The average point differential of their five road losses last year was just over 4 points, and they haven't lost by more than a touchdown in any game for several years. In other words, it's not like they're only killing teams at home and getting blown out on the road - though that's sort of what the narrative might tell you. In truth, they've lost some tough, close games on the road, and need to start winning those tough, close games on the road. They're not a completely different team on the road, it's just harder to win on the road. That's why Vegas always gives the home team three points on the spread. That's how I see it anyway, but of course I'm a big fat Seahawk homer.
Nonetheless, people will point to Seattle's 3-5 road record last year, so I guess they suck on the road. This year, obviously, the goal is to reverse that perception.
2. How has Russell Wilson looked in the beginning of his sophomore campaign? Is he still going full Tarkenton on defenders?
Wilson has been good - he passed for 320 yards in Week 1 against Carolina, which was a career regular season high, and after a low-output game against the Niners in which he completed only 8 passes while attempting 19, he came out strong against the Jaguars and threw four touchdown passes in three quarters of play.
Overall, it's a work in progress - he still looks like a sophomore QB at times, throwing out of rhythm or off-balance when the pocket collapses and he's made a few poor throws that resulted in interceptions. However, he has gone Full-Tarkenton on defenders a few times already this year, and has made some jaw dropping escapes to keep plays alive or get key first downs (and he's sprinkled in a few touchdown passes on Tarkenton-style escapes as well). With Wilson, you have to expect that he'll take a few sacks or scramble for a loss here and there, but he does such a good job of escaping what looks to be sure tackles and keeping his eyes downfield, making throws, and moving the chains, that you have to take the good with the bad.
He's made some absolutely brilliant throws thus far though - veteran, big time throws - and I tend to think he's only going to get better as the year goes on. As they say, the offense always seems to be a little bit behind the defense at the beginning of the year. I'm hoping that's true, because the ceiling is pretty high in that case.
3. What are your feelings on the Seahawks receiving corps? Are Zach Miller, Luke Wilson (who looked great in August, I might add), Sid Rice, and Golden Tate enough to get you excited about the passing game, or do you think Seattle should start looking for another threat to go along with Percy Harvin long term?
I think Seattle's receiving corps is pretty high-quality, especially considering they pass less than any other team in the NFL. Wilson threw the fewest amount of passes for any 16-game starter last year and in the early stages of this season, Seattle throws less than any other team on first downs. They're a running team, that's not changing, so for a fairly limited volume passing game, I think Seattle has some pretty good options at their disposal.
Golden Tate is an X-factor type of player - able to run with the strength and agility of a running back on screens and end arounds but also high-point and come down with jump balls and back shoulder throws downfield. He's a guy that can win 1-on-1 and for lack of a better term, he's probably Seattle's "go-to" guy. Sidney Rice is a possession receiver, and his value is that he catches anything within about six feet of him. His catch radius is insane, so Wilson can throw the ball up to him downfield and let Rice high-point it, throw it high over the middle so Rice can go get it in traffic, or throw it at the sideline, so Rice can make a diving toe-touch catch out of bounds. Rice can't win 1-on-1 as well as Tate, but he's a very solid possession guy, in my opinion. Dependable hands. He had two touchdowns last week.
Doug Baldwin is also underrated in his ability to move the chains - he too has a great catch radius, catches everything, but is the most proficient route runner of the group, so Wilson often targets him on third downs. He could be a pretty big factor this week, I think, actually, because of Seattle's issues on the offensive line and because of Houston's excellent front seven. Wilson will need an outlet.
Zach Miller is solid. He's not flashy, but he's one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and is a dependable pass catcher. Wilson and Miller seem to have a growing rapport, dating back to the playoffs last season, where he had 12 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown in two games. Luke Willson looks good thus far as well. He 'broke out' as it were last week against the Jags, with 5 catches for 76 yards. He's a good 'move' TE option in this offense but it's still early.
All in all, the Hawks, if they can stay healthy, are pretty good at receiver, and obviously will get Percy Harvin back at some point this year. Long term, they will have to draft someone to take over for Rice and his soon-to-balloon contract. Depth guys like Stephen Williams and Jermaine Kearse might be the answer for that next season if Seattle decides to release Rice after this year. They should also probably draft another TE - the depth there isn't great.
4. With Clemons and Avril already competing for sacks on this roster, how do you expect Bruce Irvin to be used when he makes his return from suspension next week?
Seattle has changed their defensive game plan some from last year. In 2012, it was a more standard 4-3 with one rush end (the LEO) and one 5-technique end (Red Bryant). Typically, the LEO would rush the passer and the 5-tech would hold the line and stop the run. This year, they're doing more creative things by merging the SAM linebacker and LEO positions. Bruce is supposed to be a SAM when he returns next week, which means he'll do more rushing from a stand-up two-point stance. The look ends up being 3-4ish in nature - with three or four down linemen and two 'rush ends' on each side (almost a 5-2 at times). In nickel, it's been rumored that Bruce will take on the 'spinner' role, which would mean he'd roam about prior to the snap and attack from different angles. It should be pretty interesting.
5. Put your name on it: the score to this game will be Seattle ___ - Houston ___.
I've got to be the Hawk Homer and say Seattle 16, Houston 13. That said, I think this one is going to be very, very tough for Seattle on the road, down three offensive line starters (LT Russell Okung, C Max Unger, RT Breno Giacomini). It wouldn't surprise me greatly if Houston comes out victorious because that's a very good team down there, coming off a tough loss - so they'll likely be fired up and ready to take it out on the Seahawks. I'm just hoping Seattle can avoid turnovers, keep it close, and squeak out a win before heading home to get healthy.
Thanks to Danny for coming by. Make sure to head on over to Field Gulls this week for some of the best football analysis you'll ever read.