For those following the major sub-plot Sunday from the Clink stands, where the whole field can be seen, the verdict likely was unanimous. Earl Thomas wasn’t the same. His famed lateral speed was reduced, and his tackling aggression seemed diminished. On one first-half play where he set up as usual, alone in the final third, he turned to head downfield by himself, tripped on his own feet and fell flat on his face.
The point here is not to knock Thomas in his new gig with Baltimore. As he himself knows, it takes a long time to get back to top form after breaking a leg. Concurring would be WR Tyler Lockett, who broke his leg in 2016 and wasn’t his old self until 2018. He played in all 16 games of 2017, but he wasn’t the same.
The point is that had the Seahawks signed Thomas to an extension, the defense in 2019 would not be better. Some coverage mistakes might have been averted via his experience, but this season he’s not the defender he was.
Nor is the Seahawks defense close to the same.
In the absence of their their two best pass rushers from 2018, DE Frank Clark (trade) and DT Jarran Reed (six-game suspension), the Seahawks would be as well off to yell, “Boo!” to improve their paltry pressure numbers.
Sunday, for the second game in a row, they didn’t get a sack. Granted, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is sufficiently quick and fast to never get hit in a game of laser tag. And yes, the stats show a sack, but that’s only because Jackson slipped and fell on the wet surface behind the scrimmage line and was tapped by DE Branden Jackson.
The previous week, the Seahawks had no sacks or hits on Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield. For the season, the Seahawks, according to a stat tracked by Pro Football Reference called QB pressures (sacks, knockdowns and hits), are 28th in the NFL with pressures on just 16.7 percent of opponent pass attempts, and 26th in sacks alone (11).
The relative absence of pressure is a major reason the defense ranks 21st in yards per play (6.0), where No. 1 is New England (4.2) and No. 32 is Miami (6.6).
And Reed was back Sunday, playing 50 of 59 snaps. Granted, the defense was missing to injury three starters, DE Ziggy Ansah, and safeties Bradley McDougald and FS Lano Hill. Whatever the reasons, the rush shortfall helps limit production of turnovers, which proved decisive Sunday in the 30-16 loss to the Ravens, who turned two turnovers into defensive touchdowns while Seattle obtained no turnovers.
Nevertheless, while lamenting losing out on turnovers, coach Pete Carroll was relatively sanguine about the pass-rush paucity.
“This is something you guys (media) are going to worry about a lot more than I am, really,” he said his Monday afternoon presser. “That number isn’t going in the right direction . . . We’d love to get more sacks. We’d love to have more hits on the quarterback whenever, because that gives us the ball, for the most part.
“There were like, two plays in the passing game (50 and 33 yards), and the rest of it was really well done by our guys making plays, getting good disruption out of it. We broke (Jackson) down and knocked him out of his spot. That wasn’t the best thing that can happen, but you needed to do it. You’ve got to go after him and change the rhythm.”
Jackson’s escapes shredded the Seahawks, especially on two critical third downs when he responded with runs of 13 and 30 yards. But it could also be that neither the Seahawks nor any other defense can counter the breakaways of perhaps the fleetest man ever to play quarterback well in the NFL.
Carroll remains steadfast in the belief that the return of Reed and Ansah (ankle) and the increased comfort of newcomer DE Jadeveon Clowney will improve improve the rush sooner than later.
“We’re on it,” he said. “The acceleration of this should go light speed. We should be able to roll. I couldn’t be more fired up that (Reed) came back like he did, performed like he did, and felt like he did coming out of the game too. So, it’s as positive as we can get.”
The same is true for all the Seahawks youngsters who’ve made early mistakes.
“It’s hugely important that you maintain balance through the schedule,” he said on his Monday radio show on ESPN 710. “Whatever the pundits want to say, they don’t know, let them take a shot. We have to stay within our four walls and get better.
“This team is going to get better. There’s too many young guys contributing; they’re going to improve, particularly the next four or five games.”
The Seahawks record in December tends to back Carroll’s contention. Enduring the learning curve early is always a chore. A least, they no longer have to face Jackson, nor talk about Thomas.
Clowney is a mystery.
He has half a season to get productive, although he’s been solid on run D.
The Ravens scored the same as us, 16 points. Absent their defenses’ 2 TD’s, 14 points, the entire narrative changes, and I believe that is what PC is looking at. 16 points scored by the QB (Jackson) who is mentioned as MVP isn’t much, and with the revised D line, PC has plenty of room for optimism.
Now as far as the Hawks offense with only 16 points, this has to be the most unimaginable set of plays, week after week, by any NFL team. It’s like they are using a 1980’s playbook and if very frustrating to watch, BUT, we were missing out best O lineman at LT, and our starting RB.
Let’s hope we improve each week and finish with at least 10 wins. With all the changes, I would look at 10-6 as a fine season.
A run-heavy team is never going to be glamorous, and they don’t have Baldwin to break open games. I disagree about Schottenheimer. I think he’s designed good game plans, and the Seahawks have been hurt by the losses of Dissly and Fant at TE.
Dissly is a big hurt and Fant has done well considering he was thrown into the most important position on the line.
These two teams looked very evenly matched. The big difference in this game came down to one phenomenal QB having a bad game while another phenomenal QB had good one.
Question: I remember a couple of years ago the Texans’ young Deshawn Watson had such an incredible game against the Seahawks, the defense had nothing but high praise for him. How did his performance compare to Jackson? (I didn’t see either game, my DVR is stuffed with soccer, rugby and hockey this time of year.)
I think, in that game, Watson actually had a better game than Jackson did last Sunday. The difference in the Houston game was that Russ played well too. I remember that game being more of a shootout with Seattle winning a close one.
I think, if Russ had even an average (for him) performance, the Hawks would’ve beat Jacksonville. Hard to say, though. Jackson was clearly the best player on the field last Sunday.
Good recall. Watson had a tremendous game, but one difference was he was sacked five times. Seahawks never laid a glove on Jackson.
Here’s the box score:
That’s a large part of it. I think Carroll is most upset over the 50-yard 1Q pass that set up the first field goal.
I agree with Pete’s comfort with the defensive line. The talent is there. They all need to simultaneously get healthy, eligible, in game shape, and on the same page. It can happen.
It could come together in December. But I’m surprised (except for Reed’s absence) it’s taking this long.
Earl played like the player he is: an All Pro player entering his 30s. He won’t admit it but unless he finds the fountain of youth he’ll continue to decline. He’s most likely on his last contract and it’s questionable if he’ll play all four years. At least with the Ravens. What’s surprising is how as he’s gotten older it’s almost as if he’s become a cranky old man. Equally surprising is how he graciously traded jerseys with Wilson and once away from him ran off the field twirling it over his head and smiling like a headhunter with their trophy. The ET I grew up with was a classy dude.
The Hawks can become that special team that goes deep in the playoffs if this team stays together. They’re a few pieces away from and a little more experience for the younger players from becoming that. Just hope those players don’t follow the example of Frank Clark. Though John Schneider turned that sorry situation into something positive the team sure could use him. I’d hate to see someone like Shaq Griffin, Tre Flowers or Justin Britt think that Clark might have been on to something and follow his lead.