STACY ROST

Rost’s Seahawks Q&A: Young players, OL, defense and changes

Dec 29, 2021, 9:28 AM
Seahawks Dee Eskridge...
Dee Eskridge of the Seahawks is tackled out of bounds by Kindle Vildor of the Chicago Bears. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Last week’s Seahawks Q&A brought so many great questions that we split it into two parts. If you haven’t read part one, which covers contract questions for DK Metcalf and Quandre Diggs, check it out here.

Jake & Stacy: Four important Seahawks player decisions this offseason

This week’s Seahawks Q&A covers slow starts for defense, playing time for rookies, and more.

@bedirthan: With a lost season, should the Seahawks shut Russell Wilson down so that he can fully recover from his finger injury? Which young player should get playing time for purely developmental reasons? Who be the Seahawk most likely to organize a D&D group, similar to Myles Garrett? Who would join them?

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was one of the final coaches to rest starters in the preseason, and quarterback Russell Wilson’s mindset is pretty similar. Both men are incredibly competitive and obsessed with winning. So, even with the postseason out of reach and an opportunity to spend more time rehabbing his surgically-repaired finger, I seriously doubt either Wilson or Carroll would opt to have the quarterback sit out the rest of the year. And given Wilson’s uneven production, I think it’s also just as important that he finishes the year getting back into a rhythm.

For young players getting time, I’d look to the trenches. The Seahawks have three of five starting offensive linemen hitting free agency at the end of this season: left tackle Duane Brown, center Ethan Pocic, and right tackle Brandon Shell. Carroll still wants to win these games and he won’t let a young player linger if they’re a liability, but Seattle might be more willing in its current situation to see what they have in guys like undrafted rookie tackle Jake Curhan and sixth-round rookie tackle Stone Forsythe, particularly if they plan to move on from Brown and Shell. Both rookies have already seen more time in Shell’s absence.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, continuing to increase snaps for Darrell Taylor would be one goal (he played a career-high 62% of snaps against the Rams in Week 14, up from about 34% to start the year).

Finally, you’d like to see a bit more from second-round rookie receiver Dee Eskridge. His snap counts were increasing against Houston and Los Angeles, but he had a quieter game against Chicago last Sunday. Part of that was the game situation dictating personnel usage; Seattle went run-heavy in snowy conditions, which led to a 135-yard day from running back Rashaad Penny, and looked more to their tight ends in the passing game. But with rookie cornerback Tre Brown on injured reserve and Forsythe being used only as a backup, a nice finish to the season for your only other 2021 draft pick sure would sit well.

To answer your final question: I’m not quite sure who would organize a Dungeons and Dragons group on this current squad, but I’m convinced someone would. (For readers who are unfamiliar with the story, Sports Illustrated ran a recent feature about a couple of Browns players, including star edge rusher Myles Garrett, who joined a Dungeons and Dragons group). We know former Seahawk linebacker Cassius Marsh was a D&D fan and an avid collector of Magic: The Gathering cards. Former Seahawks running back C.J. Prosise, who wanted to get into game design, tested a new D&D game a couple years back (it was profiled in this cool Seattle Times feature). I don’t know why my gut is telling me running back Travis Homer and defensive lineman Rasheem Green would be best suited to oversee a D&D squad in Seattle, but I’m rolling with those two as my pick.

@S3ahawk12: What’s more important – building an offensive line to dominate in future years, or QB/coaching change? What has a better chance of effectiveness between the two?

Seattle’s in a weird spot. It has a quarterback who’s great with the deep ball but who also struggles with holding onto the ball too long and taking sacks when he doesn’t need to. Meanwhile, they have an offensive line that isn’t the worst but pretty regularly ranks in the late teens to early 20s in the league, especially with pass protection.

In a perfect world you’d have a great line and a great quarterback, because both of those things together are pretty special. And I don’t think Seattle has to choose one or the other; in fact, if you’re rolling with your pass game, quarterback, or running back as your biggest threat, then investing in the offensive line feels like the logical next move. A great quarterback can make up for holes there, but few can find regular success behind a consistently poor offensive line (see: Patrick Mahomes in last year’s Super Bowl). Likewise, even a great offensive line can’t make a struggling quarterback a Hall of Famer (see: Jared Goff in L.A.). Further, great offensive line play is usually a common thread for playoff teams: only two of Pro Football Focus’ top 10 offensive lines weren’t represented in the 2020-21 postseason (New England and San Francisco) and both NFC championship teams were in the top five. I don’t need to mention it, but another thing those great OLs have in common: they were protecting Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Like I said, a great OL and a great QB can be a really special pairing.

@lindsamarie: The defense seems to have found its way, be it late in the season. How do they continue to improve and bring the energy and even more success into the beginning of next season?

Were it not for the offensive struggles in the second half of last season and into this year, we’d be talking about how this team can avoid struggling so much so early on defense. And while they’ve excelled in some areas (last year it was sacks, particularly in the second half of the season, while this year it’s scoring), they can’t continue to allow so much yardage. You could argue yards allowed don’t correlate with winning or losing, and sometimes you’d be right. But overwhelmingly, the best defenses limit yards while the worst defenses allow their opponents to march down the field. The Seahawks, somehow, have managed to rank sixth in scoring and 31st in yards allowed. It’s a fascinating stat, but not a sustainable one. (And it sounds like you know this, which is why you’re asking this very good question.)

I don’t think it’s strange for defenses to be more unpredictable than offenses year over year, nor to start slower. So, there might still be an aspect of that next year, and that will probably be the case once again for a few other teams.

Slow starts can also be impacted by preseason rules (whether it’s a lack of contact or just a lack of reps for starters). More of those preseason reps next year might help speed things up – that’s the most common sentiment I hear from former players. And I think, as simple as it sounds, getting their best players on the field sooner can speed up that process. Last year. Jamal Adams getting healthy and the trade for Carlos Dunlap were catalysts for a huge boost in sack totals. You saw the defense improve after Dunlap debuted and as Adams returned from injury, though it’s worth mentioning that they also benefited from facing struggling quarterbacks.

This year you saw the Seahawks’ defense take steps forward as the cornerback group began to settle down, but settling down meant benching one starter and swapping the other (D.J. Reed) to the opposite side. Do they improve a bit sooner if those moves are made earlier?

Why defensive line is going to be a big Seahawks priority in ’22

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