STACY ROST

Rost: What we’re going to learn about the Seahawks over the next 7 weeks

Nov 24, 2021, 9:55 AM
Seahawks Russell Wilson, Rashaad Penny...
Rashaad Penny receives a handoff from Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at Lumen Field. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seahawks (3-7) are off to their worst start in the last 10 years.

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They’re not out of it yet – FiveThirtyEight gives them a four percent shot to make the postseason – but while they wait to see whether the Hawks can pull this off, here’s what fans can watch for over the final seven weeks:

Whether Seattle can see the beginnings of another nucleus

Ask any Seahawks fan about Seattle’s two unquestionable leaders and they’d tell you the answer is Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. The good news is that Seattle’s return on investment for both has been stellar; whether or not those guys are at their height this season, both have been fixtures for Seattle and in the NFL at large over the last decade. And back in 2012, they were part of the core nucleus of a young and exciting Seattle team.

The bad news is that Seattle hasn’t been able to find quite the same nucleus of young players. Part of that is the rarity of Seattle’s 2012 draft, which was one was one of the best of the modern era. But the Seahawks been unable to refresh their roster with a group of cheap, young contributors, and instead lean heavily on veteran talent.

On display for the rest of this season, though? A group of young players like Darrell Taylor, Jordyn Brooks, Alton Robinson, and Damien Lewis. A stellar second half from a combination – or all – of those players would certainly make it easier to transition from those veteran players down the road.

Whether Rashaad Penny can make his case

Whether it’s for a job in Seattle or elsewhere, former first-round pick Rashaad Penny has a couple weeks now to make his case for a spot on a roster. Even if Seattle doesn’t bring him back, he’ll probably be able to find a depth role on another squad, but that’s also a shame considering how promising the former San Diego State star looked in college. Seattle has seen flashes of who Penny can be – like the 18-yard run to open up the first drive against the Cardinals last week – but has yet to see him show that consistently. With starter Chris Carson undergoing season-ending neck surgery, there’s never been a better time for Penny to carve out a role. But will he be able to prove doubters wrong?

How Pete Carroll coaches a losing team

In a candid moment after returning to speak with media Sunday, Carroll explained that he was in unfamiliar territory.

‘Sorry it’s not a different story’: Pete Carroll frustrated after Seahawks’ loss

It wasn’t a stretch. Carroll never saw a USC Trojans team finish below .500, and lost only two bowl games in nine seasons. In three seasons with the New England Patriots, Carroll’s teams finished 10-6, 9-7, and 8-8. The closest thing to his 2021 season came in 1994, when his New York Jets finished 6-10.

Carroll’s answers to reporters – about not knowing what to do – were presumably about being unable to provide a satisfactory answer or explanation about why issues like third down struggles have been so persistent. But it could just as easily apply to the situation he’s facing this year: how does a coach who leans so heavily on positive reinforcement coach a team that’s seen so few positives?

The answer isn’t clear, but one thing is certain: for a coach who’s willing to embrace a challenge, Carroll is facing the greatest of his coaching career.

Whether Russell Wilson can turn around a skid

Wilson had one of the worst games of his career when Seattle was shut out by Green Bay in Week 10, but more troubling is that it was part of a stretch of poor and uneven performances.

Mike Sando chronicled Wilson’s struggles in a recent column for The Athletic, noting that Seattle’s offense has averaged -2.9 EPA per game over Wilson’s last 17 starts, dating back to the team’s loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 9 last year. If Seattle has any hope to make a push toward the playoffs, then they need Wilson to be at his best, and the best version of Wilson has far more sporadic than usual.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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