BROCK AND SALK
6 Seahawks who should make more of an impact during the final stretch
The Seahawks are gearing up for the final stretch of the 2019 season with just six games remaining, starting this Sunday with a road showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Clayton’s Observations: Seahawks shaping up for home stretch
Seattle is currently 8-2 coming off its Week 11 bye and is just one game behind the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West race. If the season ended today, the Seahawks would be the fifth seed in the NFC and would travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game.
A lot of the Seahawks’ success this year has been attributed to quarterback Russell Wilson. He’s having an MVP-caliber season and has orchestrated four fourth quarter comebacks this year.
On this week’s Brock and Salk Podcast, Mike Salk wanted to know which Seahawks aside from Wilson fans can expect to see contribute more over the last six games to finish the season strong. Salk and co-host Brock Hurd each chose three players, including two players each on defense.
Here’s who they came up with.
Salk’s first choice was Seattle’s newest offensive weapon, wide receiver Josh Gordon.
“I’m surprised I’ve heard very little about him in the week following the San Francisco game,” Salk said. “Say what you want about the way they won that game, and Russell was sublime and the defense came up with big plays at the right time and obviously (defensive end Jadeveon Clowney) had his crazy night, but Josh Gordon had a couple of huge third down catches despite never playing with (Wilson) before.”
Prior to Gordon’s arrival, the Seahawks’ offense didn’t have a true No. 3 target in the passing game after wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf due to tight end Will Dissly’s Achilles injury that will keep him out the rest of the year. Tight end Jacob Hollister has emerged in the Seahawks’ passing attack with three receiving touchdowns over the last two games, but this is the first time in his NFL career he’s getting consistently high snap counts.
Gordon, meanwhile, is a former NFL All-Pro.
“Josh Gordon looked great. Is there more of that?” Salk said. “Josh Gordon, what’s the next step?”
Gordon had just two catches in the 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco on Nov. 11, but they came in critical moments. Both were on third down, with one coming in the fourth quarter and the other in overtime. The fourth quarter catch helped set up a Jason Myers field goal.
“If you don’t complete that first first down to him you probably lose that game,” Salk said. “And instead you go to him, he catches the ball, he’s wide open (on a) great little slant.”
Defensive tackle Jarran Reed appeared in just his fourth game of the season in Week 10 in San Francisco because of a suspension, but he looked like the impact player that had 10.5 sacks last season. Salk had high praise for Reed and expects him to be a big factor for the Seahawks going forward.
“Jarran Reed would be No. 2 because he is the second best player on that defense (behind Clowney),” Salk said. “And I think we’ve seen that when he’s good, when he plays at his top level, their defense changes. As good as Clowney was in the game against the 49ers, I thought actually the biggest delta in how he was versus how he was in that game was Jarran Reed, who for the first time was really a presence and made it known.”
Reed had 1.5 sacks against the 49ers and forced a fumble that Clowney recovered and returned for a touchdown. He ended the game with four tackles and two quarterback hits.
The Seahawks’ defensive line, which was seen as an area of weakness this season, had easily its best performance this year against San Francisco. But the line wasn’t the only defensive group to have its best performance of 2019 against the Niners.
Head coach Pete Carroll gave a lot of praise to his starting safeties – Bradley McDouglad and Quandre Diggs – and said that position group played the best it has all year in Week 10.
Diggs made his Seahawks debut and had an immediate impact, intercepting a pass and making some big hits. Salk believes Diggs’ safety counterpart should improve as a result.
“(McDougald) finally played better (against the 49ers) and made his presence known,” Salk said. “He hit a little bit. He was the one who had the hit on (49ers receiver) Emmanuel Sanders on the sidelines where he kind of knocked him to the ground and those are the types of plays they’re going to need.”
Huard said Diggs being on the field will allow McDougald to be more relaxed.
“There’s more of a comfort level with a veteran next to him in (playing alongside) Diggs that will allow him to be a bit more comfortable and not have to worry about (Tedric Thompson’s) inability to cover or (Marquise Blair’s) inability to maybe process as fast as you need to in this system as a rookie,” Huard said.
Huard thinks two defensive linemen will make larger impacts going forward, the first of which is defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who has battled injuries this year and hasn’t made much of an impact. He has just one sack on the year.
“Penny stock. I’m buying low and you all can laugh but we’re going to do this,” Huard said.
Carroll has said Ansah is playing about 10-15 pounds lighter than he normally does. Huard thinks the time off with the bye week may have helped Ansah get back to form.
“I believe he had a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over the bye week, he’s put on a few pounds and he’s realized the situation with a little bit of stepping away in this bye week like, ‘Man, as bad as I’ve been, I’ve got an opportunity here,’” Huard said.
The other defensive lineman Huard thinks will contribute heavily is defensive tackle Poona Ford.
Part of Huard’s rationale? The Seahawks’ remaining schedule and Ford’s run-stuffing ability.
“Over these (remaining six) games you’re going to play, you play a Minnesota (Vikings) team that wants to run, a (Los Angeles) Rams team that wants to run and a Carolina team that wants to run, right?” Huard said. “Those three games in particular are teams that will want to run, (Seattle) will have (its base defense) on the field and Poona will be a difference-maker.”
Along with those three games, the Seahawks also end the season with a home game against the 49ers that could potentially decide both the NFC West crown and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The 49ers are one of the best running teams in the NFL, but Ford and company held them to just 87 rushing yards in Week 10.
Huard’s last pick was a special teams player: Second-year punter Michael Dickson. Dickson was an All-Pro last year, but he’s averaging 1.9 less yards per punt in 2019 than he did in 2018, and his longest punt is 63 yards compared to a long of 69 yards in his rookie season.
Field position will be critical over the last few games against some tough teams, and Dickson will be a big part of that battle.
“I mean the guy is uber talented. There’s no question about that…He is too talented to be in a slump all season long,” Huard said, “I think Michael Dickson is going to have one of these games where it’s like, ‘Wow, there’s the 70-yard bomb you needed. Wow, there’s (punts) inside the 5-yard line a couple of different times.’ I think he’s going to be a factor in one of those six (remaining games).”
Listen to this week’s full Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.
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