After escaping by the skin of their teeth from a home game against a winless opponent-- it's hard to be optimistic about your team's trajectory.
The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books and by now, every team should have a pretty thorough understanding of who they are and what they have. I think we know what this team has-- and I hate to break it to the coaching staff, but what they have and what they expect their identity to be doesn't fit.
There's no question that the Seahawks have championship caliber talent, but it doesn't fit the bill for a team that predicates its style on being a ball controlling, run-first offense supported by a stingy, bend-but-don't-break defense.
The Seahawks coaching staff needs to come to grips with a few things before they depart for Ohio to face the undefeated Bengals this weekend. If they don't change anything, they'll still win some games, but they can't count on a last minute miracle from Kam Chancellor week in and week out. They'll have to adapt their style if they expect any shot at a Super Bowl return.
Here's my 'To Do' list for the Seahawks going forward:
Acknowledge the awfulness of your offensive line. The Seahawks might have the worst offensive line in the NFL. It's certainly the worst they've had in Pete Carroll's tenure. At first, the concept of converting a player from a defensive lineman or tight end into an offensive lineman was exciting and curious-- that was when it worked to some degree.
Now, it looks like Tom Cable has never seen American Football before and perhaps just doesn't know any better. JR Sweezy looked horrendous on Monday Night. Like a turn style with the number '64' painted on it, he couldn't seem to stop a nosebleed. New center, Drew Nowak, just plain looks lost out there. Perhaps there are some changes that can be made internally or maybe even a trade, but it all begins with acknowledging that this team cannot protect the quarterback or establish a run game.
Jimmy Graham is not a Tight End. The first time this issue was brought up was when he was given the franchise tag by his former team, the New Orleans Saints. The issue was raised because Graham's production and use on the field had all of the markings of a wide receiver despite him being listed as a tight end on the roster.
The significance of this is that wide receivers make more money than tight ends. When designated by the franchise tag, you remain under contract with your team at the cost of the average of the top 5 highest-paid players at your position. Graham, understandably, wanted to be paid for his receiver-like production while the Saints wanted the financially-friendly benefits of a tight end's wage.
On the field, however, Graham is every bit a receiver-- and a damned good one, at that! If Seattle brought him here to block, they wasted a tremendous amount of cap space. If they brought him here to score touchdowns and dominate in the red zone-- they need to use him as more of a slot receiver like the Saints did.
You are no longer a run-first team. Maybe next year, through the draft and free agency, the Seahawks can rebuild into a run-first dominant team. But it ain't happening this season. Not with Marshawn banged up and entering the twilight of his career. Not when your backup running back is the oldest in the league, now nursing a high-ankle sprain. Not when your offensive line is just that-- offensive.
On the bright side-- we have options!
Your receivers are pretty damned good. Look around. This team isn't hurting for offensive play makers as bad as their game plan would indicate through these first 4 weeks of the season. The aforementioned Jimmy Graham is one of the best receivers and touchdown-makers in the game today. Tyler Lockett has grown from week to week, showing that he's much more than just a kick returner. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are deadly reliable in the clutch. Even roll playing contributors like Ricardo Lockette and Luke Willson have been known to shine when called upon. Hell, even former quarterback BJ Daniels saw some action Monday Night with a 12 yard reception!
Trust in Russ. This kid is special-- and he's ours for the next 4 seasons! I know the idea of him incorporating more designed runs into the game plan might be unsettling, but Russell is a smart runner who knows when to give himself up. Plus, I'd rather see him take a hit on a 15-yard run than repeatedly for 9-yard sacks!
I'm sick of waiting until late in games for Darrell Bevell to put the game on Russell's shoulders. Wilson needs to sling the ball around and stretch the field early in games to get the defense softened up for the run game.
Seattle is going to have to lean on it's defense all season, but that shouldn't be to account for incompetent offensive play calling. Imagine if Seattle were to go into Cincinnati on Sunday and came out throwing on the Bengals. Make the first 10 plays of the game passing plays. Screen pass to Lockett, a slant to Baldwin, Jimmy Graham on a tight end seam and go deep to Kearse early.
You'd have the defense on their toes right off the bat-- that's when you hit them with the read option.
If Seattle would make it a priority to incorporate all of their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses, there wouldn't be a defense in the league that could hold us down. The good ones will limit us, but that's where we lean on our defense. Teams like the Bears and Lions should lose to us by no less than 3 scores. Teams like the Packers and Rams should still lose to us, but in low-scoring, defensive affairs.
The second quarter of the season will be a challenge to say the least. 3 of the next 4 games will be on the road against teams that are either red-hot, perpetual headaches for the Seahawks or both. Our week 9 Bye is a literal halftime for our season, but with good preparation and game-planning, this team could easily be 5-3 at the halfway point.
If the Seahawks are below .500 by week nine-- they absolutely have to fire Darrell Bevell. Maybe even Tom Cable, too, to a much lesser extent. Cable's crew is admittedly a group of guys that no other coaching staff desires, but Bevell has players that any coach would envy. If you can't find a way to win with Wilson, Lynch, Graham, Lockett and Baldwin-- you don't deserve to be coaching at this level.