Grading the Seattle Seahawks' Positional Units at the First-Quarter Mark
After four games, the Seattle Seahawks are 2-2 by basically having won games they were supposed to lose and losing games they were supposed to win.
As expected, some sense of panic has set in with pundits and fans voicing opinions far and wise on what the 'Hawks should and shouldn't do moving forward towards a rough stretch of the schedule.
Earlier this week, I examined a few of the bigger issues facing the team and tried to offer some insights.
In follow-up to that, I decided to assign some grades for the Seahawks' positional units at the first-quarter mark with the hopes of filling in any details I may have missed.
So, without further hesitation, let's see how each unit has fared through four games.
I'll confess, when it comes to Russell Wilson I've been all over the road this season in just a few short weeks.
One minute, he wasn't fit to start, the next he's the team's best player, but, ultimately, he's the team's starter for the time being.
Through four games this season, his performance has been vexing, especially when you factor in what we saw from Wilson during the preseason.
While I still believe he is the team's future, the NFL is results-driven and patience is wearing thin if Wilson keeps playing .500 football while being supported by a power-running game and impressive defense.
Complicating matters is that the team's backup, Matt Flynn was technically supposed to have the job and finds himself in a unique position of waiting in the wings to take over a potentially solid club if Wilson falters.
Still, at the end of the day, I think we haven't seen the best of Wilson, but for a rookie to start right away while keeping the team competitive in each game is no small accomplishment.
Sure, he has made mistakes, but, for today, I'm giving him a C+ as a means of reaching the middle ground between pundits and fans who think he walks on water, versus fans and critics who think he's sinking.
What happens next will play a huge role in how this season shapes up, but let's hope it's a step in the right direction.
Running Backs: A-
Marshawn Lynch is both literally and figuratively carrying the load for the 'Hawks thus far.
Through four weeks, Lynch leads all runners in the NFL with 423 yards and when given space to work, feel free to pencil him in for 100+ yards on 20+ carries and maybe a TD.
Can't complain really about that, but I remain fearful of the 'Hawks burning "Beast" out too soon this season given his current workload.
Which begs the question, "Where is Robert Turbin?"
Until last week, against the Rams, the rookie runner was all but invisible during the season's opening stretch.
Against the Rams, though, Turbin looked pretty sharp in terms of carrying and catching the football.
Honestly, I'd like to see more.
Pass Catchers: D
Call it a cop-out, but I'm lumping everyone together here as both the tight ends and wide receivers are terrible.
I won't go as far as giving them a failing grade, but it's tempting.
What makes the situation even more troubling is how there really isn't a solution currently available for this problem.
Heck, even with Sidney Rice healthy, his presence hasn't made much of a difference.
Week after week this crew has looked incompetent and incapable of doing much of anything to help either in short or long yardage situations.
For example, take tight end Anthony McCoy's uneven play, one week against the Dallas Cowboys he looks good, two weeks later against the Rams, he's the goat.
And the hits keep coming.
Is this the best of what we should expect to see from Zach Miller in Seattle?
Whatever happened to Braylon Edwards?
At any rate, let's move on.
Offensive Line: B-
Yes, they're helping Lynch run the ball, but the pass protection is spotty and the penalties are downright baffling.
Does this unit lack discipline?
What is Tom Cable going to do about it?
This unit has come too far to fall apart, but they need to cover off on all of their responsibilities.
Unlike the receivers, though, I think this crew can figure out what they need to do over the next few weeks.
Defensive Line: B
Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane can still stuff the run; meanwhile, Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin look like they're capable of making a solid effort of improving the pass rush.
Fair or unfair, this group also needs to show greater consistency in regards to penetration to help disrupt their opponents rhythm, especially with the likes of Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford coming up on the schedule.
But can they do it?
Contributions from the likes of Alan Branch, Clinton McDonald and Jason Jones would certainly help.
I'll confess, the linebackers have been a pleasant surprise thus far.
Seriously, how does anyone miss David Hawthorne?
The unit of rookie Bobby Wagner, veteran Leroy Hill and second-year man K.J. Wright have looked much better than anticipated.
Credit should go all around, but Wright has really stood out. So far, he leads the team in tackles and assists while also helping defend passes as well.
Meanwhile, Wagner, in an article by the Associated Press from earlier this week, seems to be progressing nicely:
Wagner has done exactly what Seattle wanted, while also picking up aspects of the Seahawks defense quicker than expected. Seattle made sure there was experience on either side of Wagner with Leroy Hill and K.J. Wright joining him in Seattle’s linebacker corps, but it’s Wagner making all the calls.
'I’m a lot more comfortable, just because I’ve done it for four games. I’ve got confidence and the players have backed me up,' Wagner said. 'It’s gone pretty good. I thought it would go pretty well. The faster I learned the defense the faster I could start to make plays.'
To me, at least, this is great news. Perhaps the grade for this unit is a bit high, but the expectations going into this season were so low, that I felt the need to point out how much this group has improved in such a short time.
The only problem now?
Unfortunately, this unit is a bit thin in regards to depth; therefore everyone really needs to stay healthy.
Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out how to grade this unit.
Last year, the 'Hawks relied on them so much that it seemed like they were everywhere, either breaking up passes, picking them off or simply shutting down receivers.
This year, perhaps due to the improvements made up front and in the middle, the secondary has taken more of a bend-but-don't-break approach.
They're still in every way, shape and form a solid unit with each starter living up to their established role, but something is missing.
Perhaps I'm being picky or unfair, but I want to see more of the aggressive ball-hawking play from last year that created turnovers and helped shift momentum in games. Right now, I feel this unit is playing not to lose rather than going full-out.
Maybe it's part of the maturation process?
Today, they get a B, but how they perform in the coming weeks should provide us with some real answers.
Special Teams: B
Through the first two weeks of the season the 'Hawks special teams did a solid job of helping keep the team in games and even set the tone.
You get the feeling that last Sunday Pete Carroll tried to recapture that with his call for an onside kick to start the second half against the Rams, yet it backfired horribly.
Leon Washington, Jon Ryan and Steven Hauschka all have done what has been asked of them, but, in recent weeks, there have been a few mental lapses.
I think they can turn it around, but this group needs to step up a bit and play with greater consistency.
Right now, as expected, the 'Hawks are 2-2.
Overall, this is a good team, but there are some serious issues that remain outstanding, especially on offense.
Perhaps a B- for a final Q1 grade could be considered a bit generous, but the defense and run game are hard to discount, even when you factor in the 'Hawks lackluster passing game.
If they can figure out how to move the ball through the air with some level of consistency and efficiency to complement Lynch, the 'Hawks could make a run for the postseason.
Until then, they're going to be a .500 ballclub that will rely on their defense to pitch a shutout each week.
But, as we learned in St. Louis this past Sunday, that, in itself, may not be enough.
On the bright side, though, the defense works well as a sum of its parts, which is a big improvement from last year, where the secondary did most of the heavy lifting, but, with the offense struggling at the moment, I strongly believe they need to do more.
For better or worse, the next few weeks should help answer a lot of questions.
I think the team will continue to stick to the script of keeping the ball on the ground and playing solid defense, but whether or not this team starts playing to win rather than not lose could make all the difference.