Closing Thoughts: Sophomore Class Leads the Way in Ugly Seahawks Win
The prevailing sentiment today among fans and football writers in the Great Northwest seems to be - imagine what this Seahawks team would look like if they could put together a complete game?
But while Sunday’s 17-9 win over the Eagles certainly could have been prettier, especially on offense, there’s no shortage of positives to come out of the way in which the Seahawks improved to 9-2 on the season. With quarterback Russell Wilson struggling in a performance so sloppy it may have dropped him a few spots in the race for NFL MVP, a number of other players stepped up. Most notably, a group of second-year players played starring roles, and in doing so they may have changed perceptions of the team’s 2018 draft class moving forward.
Breakout performances highlight this week’s Closing Thoughts:
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Until this point, the list of draft picks from Seattle's 2018 draft class garnered more questions and downright criticism than praise. But if the production we saw in Philly is any indication, that could be changing for the better. Running back Rashaad Penny looked every bit the part of first-round draft pick as he rushed for 129 yards on 14 carries. He looked more decisive and explosive against the Eagles, crediting a newfound nutrition plan for his lighter frame and renewed burst. Indeed, he clocked 20.78 miles per hour on his 58-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run, the fastest speed recorded by any running back in the league Sunday.
If Penny continues to provide a spark, he’s going to see more carries in a time-share with erstwhile starter Chris Carson, especially if Carson continues to struggle holding onto the football. Two more fumbles by Carson against the Eagles brought his season total to eight on the season, the most since Adrian Peterson in 2008.
But Penny wasn’t the only 2018 draftee to shine in Philadelphia:
- Cornerback Tre Flowers had one of the best games of his career as he continues what appears to be a rapid improvement in his second season. Flowers was credited with seven tackles and three pass breakups. He also intercepted Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter, executing the type of technique highlighted in coaching clinics. His improvement, combined with the Pro Bowl-like performance of his counterpart on the other side, Shaquill Griffin, is one of the reasons Seattle’s defense currently ranks eighth in the NFL in opponent passer rating.
- Griffin’s twin brother Shaquem was again used as a designated pass rusher and looked even more comfortable, and dangerous, than he did against the 49ers. Shaquem nearly had his first sack, with Wentz getting rid of the ball on one play just as he was being tackled by Griffin, but appeared to effect the pocket on nearly every snap he played. Watching his continued development will be one of the more intriguing story lines for the remainder of this season.
- Defensive end Rasheem Green played very little as the youngest rookie in the NFL last year, but his steady development seemed to take another step forward Sunday as he helped fill the void left by a hip injury that sidelined Jadeveon Clowney. Green had a sack, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and was credited with six quarterback pressures against the Eagles, earning an outstanding 84.5 grade from Pro Football Focus.
- Punter Michael Dickson hasn’t been as dynamic as he was during his All Pro rookie season and he had a rough start in Philly with a 27-yard shank in windy conditions. But he bounced back to have possibly his best performance of the year, downing five punts inside the Eagles 20-yard line, including two inside the two-yard line.
ZIGGY PROVIDES THE ANSAH
All puns aside, Ansah stepped up when the team needed him most. The former Pro Bowl defensive end has been a non-factor since signing with Seattle as a free agent last offseason. But coach Pete Carroll says Ansah is still fighting to get his muscle mass and strength back as he continues to work himself back from major shoulder surgery. If Sunday’s game was any indication, he’s getting closer to his old form.
With Clowney in street clothes, Ansah helped pick up the slack. Looking more explosive than we’ve seen all year, he had 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Pro Football Focus awarded him a grade of 86.0, the second highest on Seattle's defense behind safety Quandre Diggs' 88.4.
DOES THE D IN DK STAND FOR DROP?
DK Metcalf has been one of the more productive rookie wide receivers in the league this year, but dropped two catchable passes against the Eagles, one of which would have been an easy touchdown had he corralled it. While Metcalf has done a great job contributing as a rookie, and his physical gifts are obvious and immense, he’s going to need to make those plays more consistently in order to maintain trust from Wilson and the coaching staff. Focus drops were mentioned as a concern in Metcalf’s nfl.com draft scouting report. Time will tell if this becomes a major issue or just another area of improvement for the uber-talented young receiver.
INJURIES MOUNTING ON DEFENSIVE LINE?
Just as Seattle’s defense, particularly the pass rush, appears to be coming together - now the Seahawks are dealing with a number of potentially significant injuries along their defensive line. In addition to Clowney, who Carroll says may be back for the Monday Night Football matchup against Minnesota, defensive tackle Jarran Reed left Sunday’s game with what appears to be a potentially serious ankle injury. Reed was seen in a walking boot after the game - not a great sign - but we should know more about his status later today or tomorrow. Fellow tackle Poona Ford also limped off at one point, but later returned and finished the game.
If Reed and/or Clowney miss any more games, rookie L.J. Collier may be called on to play a bigger role. The first round draft pick played 26 snaps in Philadelphia but failed to show up on the stat sheet.
CLOSING THOUGHTS CLOSING THOUGHT
In the short term, injuries and inconsistency are a concern as the Seahawks head into the stretch run at 9-2 and just a game out of first place behind San Francisco in the NFC West. The pass rush needs to continue to evolve and doing it without Reed or Clowney might be a tough task.
In the long term, however, performances by so many of the team’s 2018 draftees against the Eagles bodes well for the team’s future.
Next up is an 8-3 Minnesota team that has at times looked like championship contenders in 2019, but has also had its share of head-scratching moments battling inconsistency. In that way, they are much like the Seahawks, and the way they win with a powerful running game and solid defense is also reminiscent of what Carroll has built in Seattle. It’ll be a battle for potential playoff seeding in the NFC, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football at CenturyLink Field.