In the run-up to yet another difficult matchup for Atlanta, I decided to get Field Gulls blogmeister Kenneth Arthur’s takes on the state of that team right now, including what could happen down the line if the Seahawks beat the hell out of the Falcons and get Dan Quinn fired.
You’ll find his enlightening answers below.
Dave Choate: Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level this year, which terrifies me given the state of this Falcons defense. Is this just him playing at his usual level with a better supporting cast, or has something happened to kick him into another gear?
Kenneth Arthur: I think the addition of Will Dissly helped a lot, which is what makes it all the more unfortunate that he’s out for the rest of the season. I can’t help but think of the mistakes made by DK Metcalf against the Ravens and wonder what would have happened if Dissly was there to get his usual targets. Nothing against the rookie Metcalf, but Seattle may have learned that they can’t lean on their current starters more, they may need to find a new option and keep things as close to the way they were before as possible.
The other thing is something I’ve related back to the Falcons many times, which is that when they hired a familiar last name as offensive coordinator, the first year with Matt Ryan was fine and the second year was MVP. I mentioned that several times over the course of Brian Schottenheimer’s first season and now here we are in year two, and Wilson is in talks as MVP. I’m not sure the supporting cast is all that much better, if at all. Tyler Lockett is the usual Lockett, which is great. Metcalf is impressive for a rookie but more growing pains should be expected.
The offensive line has not done very well, as also maybe should be expected. Chris Carson is pretty Chris Carson for the most part. Rashaad Penny is teetering on the edge of “massive disappointment.” If anything, Wilson’s supporting cast helps his case for MVP even more. This team is 5-2 and doesn’t seem to be much more than him right now. But the loss of Dissly can’t be overlooked.
Dave Choate: Depending on where I look and what I watch, I see this Seahawks offensive line either being a little improved or just as bad as ever. Which is it, and if you’re the Falcons terrible pass rush, what weak points are you attacking to try to actually get pressure on Wilson?
Kenneth Arthur: I don’t know if I can see any improvement. Given how much effort they put into fixing the run game, and that Carson seems to be fighting through tackles all the time, it’s a source of disappointment to see the Seahawks miss on more linemen and fail to recognize the need to replace some others. Duane Brown’s been okay and has been injured as of late. It’s unknown if him or George Fant will start on Sunday. Mike Iupati, I don’t have much of an opinion on. I think he’s done some nice things in the run game. Justin Britt is the center and I’d say playing poorly enough to perhaps be a cap casualty in 2020; I think the center position is significantly underrated and it may be time to make a change there soon. D.J. Fluker was the right guard before he got hurt and replaced by Jamarco Jones, who over the last 2.5 games may be the team’s best lineman. Fluker is healthy enough to play but must compete for a job according to Pete Carroll. Germain Ifedi is a penalty nightmare at right tackle and ain’t much of a pass blocker. It’s the weak vs the weak this week when it comes to the trenches, I think.
Dave Choate: As someone who sort of got used to the Seahawks having one of the league’s elite defenses, watching highlights and looking at their rankings versus the larger NFL is a bit jarring. What’s happened to this side of the ball, and is there hope that they’ll improve in the back half of the season?
Kenneth Arthur: There is hope. Jarran Reed just returned from a six-game suspension. Ziggy Ansah as usual is fighting through injuries but you never know if he could just string together 6 or 7 healthy weeks. Jadeveon Clowney’s been dominant at times -- but make no mistake, he’s having a nightmare start to his Seattle career. He’s on pace for a few sacks and less than 10 QB hits and that’s not how you want to go into free agency. I expect some regression to occur for Clowney.
We’re also hopeful that rookie first round pick L.J. Collier could start to “get it” soon and contribute, but there’s not been much reason for encouragement there yet. Perhaps someone in the form of Rasheem Green could help, a third rounder out of USC last year, but he’s been super inconsistent. The other regression we’d hope for is from all three linebackers, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Mychal Kendricks. Wright and Kendricks have been especially worrisome, whereas Wagner maybe isn’t the best defensive player in the world not named Aaron Donald this time around. But he’s still Bobby Wagner.
I’d be curious to see if Pete Carroll gets rookie Cody Barton some more playing time in the second half of the season. Finally, the team just traded for safety Quandre Diggs and I would expect to see him out there this weekend in some sort of role. SS Bradley McDougald is injured and was replaced as starter by rookie second rounder Marquise Blair vs the Ravens, who did quite well. He’s next to Tedric Thompson, who many see as disappointing, including Carroll, who called him out for giving up a huge play against the Ravens last week.
I wonder how long before Diggs is out there full time, either at safety or as a nickel corner, essentially replacing Kendricks or Wright. We like what cornerback Shaquill Griffin is doing and I think Tre Flowers is okay too; both of those guys are young enough to also potentially get better as the year goes on. But as you know, could also get worse!
Dave Choate: Kind of a loaded question, but how do you feel about the possibility of ending Dan Quinn’s Falcons career as the team that got him the job in the first place? Do you think the Seahawks would try to bring him back as their defensive coordinator if/when he is fired?
Kenneth Arthur: Yes. I think Pete Carroll would first re-hire him as an assistant and then consider replacing Ken Norton, who could be a part of the problem on that side of the ball. This is much, much worse than Seattle expected to be, especially in run defense. I’m sure that irks Carroll a lot and the personnel that they signed, drafted to be out there were thought to be good enough to make for a great run defense. Instead, it’s arguably one of the worst.
How could that be with Clowney, Wagner, Wright, Kendricks, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson? These are run-stoppers! And they’re healthy. And the Seahawks are 29th in yards per carry allowed. I think Quinn is gonna be welcomed back (why wouldn’t he be?) though Gus Bradley eventually wound up with the Chargers, not back in Seattle after the Jaguars fired him.
It’s rare for Carroll to make any in-season coaching changes -- I don’t recall a time that it has happened -- but if they’re trading for Diggs to replace Tedric, are they gonna make a move for the guy telling those guys what to do? Especially given his past success in that role? I think that road is open.
Dave Choate: Especially with how crowded the NFC West looks, what are your expectations for this Seahawks season? Is there enough talent on hand to go on a Super Bowl run?
Kenneth Arthur: I don’t know if it comes down to talent as much as it comes down to a 5-2 start. The Seahawks need to go 5-4 the rest of the way to finish 10-6 and that’s often a wild card team. Not always, but often. I mean, they can go 4-5 and finish with a winning record. Getting those close wins is as important to Seattle as it is to any other team and many teams to win the Super Bowl didn’t finish in first place, didn’t get a bye week, and/or didn’t win “easily” most of the time. This happens in football. We see it every year.
So the Seahawks may not be the 2013 version that many expected to be there once we were around the midpoint of that season, but even that team needed comeback victories. They were down 14 points on the road in the fourth quarter to the Texans and won. They were down 21-0 at home to the Bucs and won. Do I think this team is as “talented” as that team? No. But I think it’s got the necessary ingredients, the most necessary of which to your question is: early wins. If they can beat the Falcons, it’s 6-2 followed by a home game vs the Bucs and a road game vs the 49ers on Monday Night Football then a bye.
How hard is it to see the Seahawks at 7-3 going into the bye? Then the need to go 3-3 in the home stretch to hit double digit wins, where 4-2 gets them 11-5. Knowing that Carroll and Wilson have a long history of dominating December, could this team be 12-4? I think it’s possible and that’s WITHOUT as much talent as yesteryears. Consider the 49ers, who are 6-0, but have the Panthers this week, both games against Seattle, the Packers, at Baltimore, at New Orleans, and vs the Rams remaining on their schedule. Out of just those 6 games, is 2-4 impossible? And the Rams, now 4-3, must do a little climbing. Even the Cardinals are 3-3-1.
It’s a crowded division but the Seahawks are 2-0 within it to start and I think that they can compete to win it and certainly can remain in the wild card conversation. But the whole conference is a minefield. The only team in the AFC that I actually think could even make the NFC playoffs is the Patriots. The Chiefs maybe, depending on the division; the NFC East is a weak point, but even one where the Cowboys and Eagles can look quite dangerous. I do not like the Seahawks chances, but I think they’ve got ‘em. Chances that is.