Clayton’s Observations: Seahawks’ run game just keeps getting better
Although Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t pretty, it was effective.
The division win on the road improved the Seahawks’ record to 2-2. It also set up the possibility of putting together a 4-2 record or better in the NFC West this season.
The Cardinals now have to come to Seattle later in the season with a team that is currently 0-4 and starting a rookie quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers are more vulnerable to a possible sweep in their season series against Seattle, too, after losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon and a few other key starters.
Here’s a few things we learned about the Seahawks from Sunday’s win.
• The running game is getting better and better each week. Despite the injury that sidelined Chris Carson against Arizona, the Seahawks rushed for 171 yards and had a 5-yard average against the Cardinals. Sure, the Cardinals have totally underachieved this season with their run defense, but the Seahawks added more varieties of running plays than the previous week.
Mike Davis showed his power-running style with a 101-yard effort on 21 carries, and Rashaad Penny looked good off the bench with 49 yards on nine carries. With Davis against Arizona and Carson against Dallas, that’s back-to-back 100-yard games by running backs.
So far the Seahawks haven’t tried to get Russell Wilson involved too much in the running game. Wilson tried more run-pass options last Sunday but he’s giving the ball to the backs more than keeping it. This year, he has 42 rushing yards on 11 carries.
• Remember how bad things were on first downs for the Seahawks last year? The Seahawks struggled to get many good plays on first down in 2017, particularly in the first quarter. But according to ESPN Stats and Info, Wilson has the 10th best quarterback rating on first down (108.3) so far this season.
• The numbers for the Seahawks’ defense are pretty good. Seattle ranks seventh in yards allowed at 326.8 yards per game. The Seahawks are only giving up 204.3 yards through the air, one of the best in the league, and opposing quarterbacks are only getting 5.7 yards per attempt.
What’s helped is taking on young quarterbacks such as Mitch Trubisky, Dak Prescott and Josh Rosen, but safety Bradley McDougald and cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin, Justin Coleman and Tre Flowers continue to get stingier with their pass coverage. Flowers, a rookie, is really coming on and getting better.
Losing Earl Thomas is going to hurt, though, and that’s going to be a big problem in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks have been using more three safety sets, with Tedric Thompson coming in as the third man to enhance coverage. That would have been a big help against the Rams, but with Thompson taking over at free safety it will be Delano Hill now entering as the third safety.
• Jarran Reed is starting to have the breakout season people predicted. He has three sacks, is making some impressive run stops, and saw his playing time increased to 82 percent of the snaps against the Cardinals.
• It sure appears the Seahawks will stay with J.R. Sweezy at left guard even though Ethan Pocic should be available against the Rams. The running game is working so it would be hard for the Seahawks to make a change. Plus, it probably doesn’t hurt having an experienced offensive lineman going against the super talented Rams defensive line.
• As expected, Doug Baldwin’s return improved the passing offense. Coming off a pair of knee injuries, Baldwin clearly wasn’t 100 percent. He came up a yard short of a first down on some third down plays, but he caught five passes on seven targeted throws for 41 yards. With Baldwin missing most of the first three games, Wilson was a 60-percent thrower. With Baldwin back, he completed 19 of 26 throws for 172 yards, improving his completion percentage to 62.8.