2 Takes: The most important Seahawks while Russell Wilson is out
The Seahawks will be without star quarterback Russell Wilson for at least a few games due to a finger injury. If Seattle, which is 2-3 entering a Week 6 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wants to contend for a playoff spot, players will need to step up in Wilson’s absence.
During Thursday’s edition of Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle, Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost made their picks for players on both sides of the ball that need to shine while Wilson is out of action and his backup, Geno Smith, is starting at quarterback.
Here’s a look at who they picked.
Defense: The pass rush is key
• Jake Heaps: Jamal Adams
After earning second-team All-Pro honors in his first season with the Seahawks, Jamal Adams has been pretty quiet to start 2021.
Heaps thinks if the Seahawks are to go 2-1 or even 3-0 over the next three weeks, Adams will need to be an impact player. Heaps also made it clear that whether or not Adams shines is partly out of his hands.
“Jamal Adams becoming and being a legitimate factor for this defense would mean (head coach) Pete Carroll and (defensive coordinator) Ken Norton Jr. are finally using him correctly by allowing him to play a very high percentage of snaps around the line of scrimmage,” Heaps said.
Last season, Adams was a pass-rushing specialist who regularly made plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. He led the Seahawks with 9.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 12 games. Adams has yet to record a sack in 2021, however, and has two tackles for loss through five games.
“Adams should be pressuring the quarterback. I think he should be pressuring the quarterback anywhere from to 20-25% of the time,” Heaps said. “… It puts him in the best position. It puts him where he’s most comfortable, most instinctual and can cause legitimate havoc for opposing offenses.”
Heaps noted that defensive end Carlos Dunlap earned a lot of recognition last year because the defense and pass rush turned around when he joined the team. Heaps said that Adams, though, was the one who led that pass rush when it was at its best.
“Everybody else was able to benefit off of the playmaking ability of Jamal Adams and his ability to get to the passer,” Heaps said. “It may hurt the pride of the defensive line but I don’t really care. He needs to be more of a factor in pass rushing situations.”
• Stacy Rost: Carlos Dunlap/defensive line
Rost also said Seattle’s pass rush must improve (the Seahawks are tied for 17th in sacks), and while she thinks the defensive line as a whole needs to step up, Dunlap in particular is the guy who needs to get it going.
“I know he’s had a quiet start to the season, but I’m telling you guys, at training camp he looked like one of the best athletes on the field,” she said. “And he was active in training camp.”
In eight games with the Seahawks a year ago, Dunlap had five sacks. He has none this year and no tackles for loss, either.
Rost pointed to a conversation that ESPN’s Brooke Pryor had with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob on Wednesday about the Steelers (listen here) as part of why the Seahawks’ defensive line is so important.
Pryor, who covers the Steelers for ESPN, told Wyman and Bob that the Steelers’ offense really only goes as the offensive line does. The Steelers’ O-line did well last week in a win over the Denver Broncos and the offense as a whole had arguably its best game of the year. But in the previous two weeks, the line struggled and the offense was lackluster.
“So I’m looking to Carlos Dunlap and the pass rush,” Rost said. “If they can get hits – it doesn’t even have to be sacks … just disruption. If you can disrupt (Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s) timing, I think you can force him into mistakes that he wouldn’t have made 10 years prior.”
Offense: Physical playmakers
• Jake Heaps: Chris Carson
Heaps thinks that running back Chris Carson will be getting a lot of chances to lead the charge while Smith is under center until Wilson is healthy.
“This is the opportunity for Chris Carson to have the offense flow through him,” he said. “This is a player who, in my opinion as I’ve stated over the last couple years, I believe he’s one of the best pure running backs in the league … In terms of running the football, Chris Carson is one of the most feared running backs in this league. He runs downhill, he’s extremely hard to stop and he punishes you all game long.”
Carson is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and averages well over 4 yards per carry. Heaps wants the Seahawks to lean on him while Wilson is hurt, but he did note that Carson is dealing with a neck issue that kept him out of action last week. Head coach Pete Carroll has essentially said that the injury isn’t anything new and likely isn’t going away this year.
“That being said, if Carson can have big weeks and big games, the effect that his play would have is taking the burden off Geno Smith, and this offense wouldn’t have to be overly reliant on Geno Smith to take the offense up and down the field,” Heaps said. “… It also would allow this offense to do what it does best, which is to remain and keep the big play element of this offense with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (alive).”
Speaking of Metcalf …
• Stacy Rost: DK Metcalf
Rost’s pick on offense is Metcalf, the talented third-year receiver who set a Seahawks record for receiving yards last year and had 98 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Due to time constraints, Rost didn’t get to dive into why Metcalf was her pick, but in her latest column for 710Sports.com, Rost said Metcalf and Lockett will “certainly help with the transition to a new passer” in Smith.