What We Learned: Seahawks’ best move was the one they didn’t make
The Seahawks won 12 regular-season games, their most in six years. That earned them the right to host a playoff game for the first time in four years.
Here are three other things we learned over the course of this season as the Seahawks prepare for Saturday’s playoff game against the Rams:
1. DK Metcalf is the Seahawks next star.
The wait to find Seattle’s next homegrown star is over. Metcalf has stepped into that stratosphere occupied previously by players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and of course Russell Wilson. Someone whose play on the field puts him among the top handful of players at his position in the league, but more than that, whose personality or very being makes him someone known even by the most casual of NFL fans.
Metcalf is that guy with hair that is always changing color, who applies eye black more like battle paint and who has shown a remarkably consistent ability to get defensive backs so mad they are penalized 15 yards for trying to fight him. Oh yeah, and Metcalf just broke Steve Largent’s Seahawks record for most receiving yards in a single season, so he’s got some productivity to go with the panache. Metcalf was one of four Seahawks named to the Pro Bowl for the first time, and he’s just getting started.
2. The Seahawks’ best deal this year is the one it didn’t make.
More specifically, Seattle didn’t break the bank to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney even though plenty of people thought the Seahawks should have. Not necessarily because Clowney was that good but because the alternatives were so bad, and yet general manager John Schneider stuck to his position. He didn’t keeping stacking up the money until Clowney said, “Yes.” Seattle moved on, signing Benson Mayowa and then trading for Carlos Dunlap.
Clowney, meanwhile, played eight games with the Tennessee Titans and then went on injured reserve heading into Week 13 as he underwent surgery to repair a damaged meniscus in his knee. Clowney didn’t record a sack for the Titans.
No, it’s too much to say the Seahawks saw this coming. After all, they did seek to re-sign Clowney. But Seattle also didn’t talk itself into paying him more money – thereby taking a bigger risk – because they feared losing Clowney, and that’s a credit to Seattle’s confidence in its own valuations of players.
3. Give Seattle’s coaches credit for the team’s largest sack total in 15 years.
The Seahawks finished with 46 sacks, which was seventh-most in the NFL and more than Seattle has ever had under Pete Carroll. In fact, the last time Seattle had more sacks in a season was 2005 when the Seahawks finished with 50. Not bad considering that the pass rush was the biggest concern for this defense entering the season.
The additions of safety Jamal Adams (9.5 sacks) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (5 sacks) certainly spurred the production, but let’s also acknowledge the role that Seattle’s scheme played. For Carroll’s first nine seasons as head coach, Seattle was always toward the bottom of the league in blitz percentage, which measures how often a defense sends five or more pass rushers after the quarterback. That has changed.
In 2018, Seattle blitzed on 18.4 percent of its defensive snaps, the 28th-lowest rate in the league. In 2019, it was 26.9, which ranked 18th. This season, Seattle has sent at least one extra pass rusher on 33.2 percent of passes, which is 11th-most. While the Seahawks under Carroll aren’t ever going to be confused with Blitz-burgh, it’s clear the coaching staff changed its strategy to cover for what could have been a debilitating weakness.
More from Danny: Are Seahawks playoff-ready as this low-scoring team?