What We Learned: Graham showing why Seahawks traded for him
Three things we learned and three things we’re still trying to figure out after the Seahawks improved to 3-1 with a 27-17 win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium:
Three things we learned.
1. So that’s why Seattle traded for Jimmy Graham.
First there was the one-handed catch on the sideline while he was being defended by a cornerback. Then there was the diving, over-the-shoulder grab behind a linebacker, a play that stood up to a review. And when it was over, Graham had six catches for 113 yards, becoming the first Seahawks player since Mike Williams in 2010 to have 100 or more yards receiving in back-to-back games. Quarterback Russell Wilson has clearly developed confidence in his tight end and is now willing to give Graham a chance when he’s covered one-on-one. That’s really important because a target as big as Graham isn’t going to get the separation that Wilson is used to seeing from his receivers, but he now understands how to give Graham the opportunity to show the kind of difference-maker he is.
2. Earl Thomas is remarkably durable.
Thomas started his 100th consecutive regular-season game on Sunday, tying Cortez Kennedy for the franchise record for a defensive player. That’s especially remarkable when you consider Thomas’ size and his style of play. He’s all of 5 feet 10, and he’s a nosy safety who is aggressive in coming forward to make plays and he’s certainly not afraid of throwing his body around. I vividly remember seeing Thomas after one game during his second season on his knees in the visitor’s locker room with his shoulder pads still on. His back had tightened up and he was waiting to even try to take his pads and jersey off. I wondered about his longevity. Well, five years later, he still hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career, and at one point in the 2014 playoffs, he played six quarters with a shoulder so injured it would require offseason surgery and a six-month recovery. Thomas’ durability is truly remarkable.
3. Seattle’s offensive line is in fact better than it was to start last season.
Allowing nine sacks through the first four games is hardly anything to brag about. Seattle is tied for the 12th-most sacks allowed. It is, however, half the number of sacks that Seattle had allowed through four games last season. And for all the concern about a line that returned only two starters this season and was starting four guys at different positions than what they played in 2015, Seattle’s offensive line has been downright adequate with lots of room to improve. The surprise is that Seattle is averaging 93 yards rushing, which is 20th in the league. So much for that preseason belief that the Seahawks were going to get a great push at the line of scrimmage while struggling to pass protect.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out.
1. How good are these offenses the Seahawks are muzzling?
Seattle has allowed the second-fewest yards in the league and the third-fewest points. Of the five touchdowns opponents have scored this season, three have been in the fourth quarter of games that Seattle was leading by double digits. The Seahawks have been dominant, but three of their opponents this season ranked among the seven worst teams in total offense last year. The only exception was the Jets. And while you can’t criticize the Seahawks for poor scheduling since the league is the one who lines up opponents, their game against Atlanta in Week 6 is going to be very telling as Seattle faces a truly potent offense for the first time this season.
2. Is Russell Wilson going to be a viable MVP candidate?
He should be. And anyone who has watched how he has not just played through injuries this first month of the season but also improved knows his importance to Seattle. The guy has been healthy for exactly two full quarters in the four games his team has played, yet he has only been intercepted once and is on pace for a career-high in passing yardage. But again, he’s never going to be the volume passer. He ranks 16th in passing yards this season and is tied for 16th in touchdown passes with five, which makes him the most statistically average starting quarterback in the league. Not only that, but his leg injuries have kept him from making an impact running the ball. Will voters look past his raw numbers to see what Wilson has meant to Seattle just by getting back on the field?
3. Why in the world did New Orleans let C.J. Spiller go?
My initial observations of Spiller were undeniably biased. I couldn’t imagine that a team like New Orleans, which knows how to use unique offensive weapons, would ditch a player whose 2016 salary was already paid for unless the guy was well and truly cooked. In other words, I expected Spiller to be about as quick as Fred Jackson was last season. Spiller looked great in his Seahawks debut. It was not just the burst he showed on his first carry, but the feel he demonstrated as a receiver in finding the depth on his pass route to give Wilson a window for Seattle’s first touchdown of the game. It took one quarter for me to go from thinking Spiller was a short-term Band-Aid to someone who will be a potentially invaluable veteran asset for a young backfield.