The bird brawl of 2019 is set to commence here soon and I was lucky enough to be joined by Field Gull’s Managing Editor Kenneth Arthur. I also answered five of Kenneth’s questions, so please check it out!
1. Seattle currently stands at 5-1, but, without sounding disrespectful, is it fair to say their record could be misleading? I’m not trying to discredit the Seahawks by any stretch, I’m just playing the skeptic as four of their five wins came in tight contests. Specifically, four points or fewer.
I definitely see why people keep asking this because the Seahawks have had close wins, but I think part of the reason minds are going there is that they did not expect the Seahawks to be 5-1. So it must be some turn of extreme fortune. And that’s not in dispute exactly. They have four very close wins. The Saints are 5-1 and they have four really close wins. The Packers are 5-1 and have three really close wins. The Texans are 4-2 and have three close wins. I think unless you’re the Patriots against a very easy schedule (and with an incredible defense, not to discount them) or the 49ers right now, who doesn’t have a good record that could easily be flipped? The Ravens could certainly flip their 4-2 record to 2-4 pretty easily. That’s not an excuse, it’s just one of the reasons why I’m not too worried about how close the wins have been; the 2013 Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl, most seem to remember them as some dominant juggernaut, but that didn’t really happen until the second half of the year and the playoffs. They won a lot of early games by needing comebacks (21-0 to the Bucs, -14 pts to the Texans in the 4th quarter) and sneaking by a few teams by the hair on their chin. That’s just football to me. Could they be 2-4? Hell yeah. But they aren’t and that’s more encouraging than some of their 2-4 or 3-3 starts in recent years. No midseason comeback is necessary yet and we’re happy. Is their record misleading? No, not any more than any other team. I think you can be an overrated 5-1 team and you can be an underrated 1-5 team. (The Colts were 1-5 last year, made the playoffs.) But I don’t think we are in the position today to tell you which teams those are because even an “overrated” 5-1 team can get hot, start to gel, and actually start playing like a legitimate 5-1 team. Just like a team can flop, which we see every year. Will the Seahawks flop? Maybe! But not based on what I’ve seen so far. The 5-1 record is more than fair. It’s their record.
2. Russell Wilson is a clear candidate for league MVP. He’s tossed 14 touchdown passes and zero (!) interceptions. Is there a specific reason for his top-tier success in 2019?
Many specific reasons. He’s just getting better. Now in year eight, he’s just getting better. He’s constantly working on his game because Wilson’s obsession is not winning the Super Bowl this year. It’s winning the Super Bowl for many years. He wants to top Tom Brady. He wants to be a legend. He wants to retire when he’s in his 40s. He wants to be a billionaire. His dreams are big, so he doesn’t stop hustling and that’s a part of the success, I think. Number two is offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Now in his second year, he’s got Wilson humming and I believe Schottenheimer will get a head coaching gig in 2020. Three was Will Dissly. Unfortunately, Dissly has an Achilles injury and is out for the year. Number four is that Tyler Lockett is having no issue with increased targets following the retirement of Doug Baldwin. Number five is that the running game, led by Chris Carson, is heating up compared to where it was the last three years and since Pete Carroll’s offense is completely centered around the run game, Carson’s presence and ability to break tackles is paramount to Wilson’s efficiency. I think! I know many would disagree with that, but let’s not worry about them. (Including some in your front office. Sean Seabeck was a writer for Field Gulls and now he does analytics for the Ravens.) I think Wilson is just on the top of his game, he’s picking apart defenses in key moments, the offense seems well-designed around him for explosive and efficient plays, and I’m sure luck has a lot to do with it too. Though he only has thrown 1 interceptable pass last I had read. He’s on fire: 44 TD, 4 INT in his last 20 games.
3. How do you expect the fans will receive Earl Thomas’ return to Century Link Stadium?
I don’t know! I hope well. I have nothing against Earl Thomas and it’s a little irksome when fans take these things personally. It’s not personal. Earl Thomas wanted a new contract, he didn’t get one, we don’t know how much he was asking for, no team is OBLIGATED to extend a player, they wanted to go younger at safety and start to shift some veterans around for new players that they had drafted, they felt they could get similar defensive production if they shifted focus to the front-7 instead of the secondary, he returned, he was great, he broke his leg, he gave Pete the middle finger, he wasn’t seen again. Earl is a weird guy -- at least from our perspective. He does unusual things like talk to Jason Garrett about coming to get him and flippin’ off his coach when he’s being carted off the field from a broken leg. But I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he gets a warm welcome because while I see animosity in certain spots, I think people understand that he’s an elite player who will be significant to this organization for years to come.
4. What are the Seahawks’ greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
Russell Wilson is everything to this team. He’s the MVP, in my opinion. That’s the biggest strength. The offensive line is a pass blocking weakness and the run blocking isn’t much better. Chris Carson is a strength as long as he isn’t fumbling. He’s a broken tackles machine. Lockett is a strength. Rookie DK Metcalf has to step up without Dissly. He’s been pretty good -- but more work is to be done. There could be a weakness at receiver after Lockett. Bradley McDougald and Shaquill Griffin are strengths in the secondary. The linebackers are counted on to lead the defense -- Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Mychal Kendricks. The pass rush has been a huge weakness despite adding Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah, but Jarran Reed (10.5 sacks last year) returns from a six-game suspension this week. He says he’s good to go.
5. Who/What will be the X-factor for the Seahawks in this upcoming matchup?
I’d like to say Reed since we’ve been eagerly anticipating his return. We hope that helps the pass rush, but Ziggy is hurt again. Will they be full strength? Hard to say. I think that defensively it could be Reed, as they also want their run defense to be better than it has been. If they can shut down Baltimore’s run game, I think they can handle the offensive weapons in the passing game and potentially make it a low-scoring game for the Ravens. Offensively, for Wilson to excel, I’m thinking that Carson could be an X-factor. Without Dissly, it’s even more important for the run game to succeed each week. I’ll say Carson but a deeper cut may be Malik Turner, a young receiver who may get more targets now that Dissly is out. They could also be looking to tight end Luke Willson, who returned to the team a few weeks ago when they traded Nick Vannett to the Steelers.