Since the start of the season, the Seahawks look like they're continuing to get better, and winning two home games before going back on the road puts them in a great position going into their final six weeks.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has looked like a completely different quarterback in the most recent five weeks compared to the first five of the season. Though his receivers have struggled on occasion with dropped passes and the offensive line has been fighting through injury issues, overall the offense has improved as the season progresses.
The Seattle defense has been strong against the run this season in games where they haven't been up against Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore. They've also played well against the pass outside of games against Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. Despite their solid play, they've been unable to get off the field on third down at times and have other areas they could show some improvement on after the bye week.
While Seattle has been improving on offense and proven they have a potentially elite defense, they have 10 players on the roster who will need to show improvement when the team comes back to head into the final six games of the season.
First of all, I did check Braylon Edwards' Twitter account before writing this article, and it claims that he still plays for the Seahawks, so I think I'm safe in listing him here. Some will ask why I didn't put Doug Baldwin on this list considering the number of dropped passes he has this year, but Edwards has a fairly significant achievement over Baldwin.
His primary reason for being the only receiver to make this list is because he is the only player to be accosted for his poor performance this year by a fantasy football degenerate working at a hospital.
I'm still a little bit shocked by that news story. If it were a St. Louis-area hospital in Week 4, then perhaps I have a sliver of understanding for the fantasy owner's perspective. Maybe three weeks later, a guy can still be upset from a Week 1 loss when Edwards missed a touchdown catch against the Cardinals. But by the time Edwards played against Detroit, he may have visited the only hospital in the country who has a guy hanging on to him in his fantasy league.
Jokes aside, I am sympathetic to Edwards' recent injury, and Baldwin is struggling with injuries this season as well, but I'm left to wonder why he has been on the field for so few snaps after the Arizona game. He has shown that even if he's covered he can get up in the air to make a catch, but it's tough to get open when you're not even on the playing field.
Hopefully the bye week allows both Edwards and Baldwin to heal up and to get the Seahawks back to full strength at wide receiver.
I hate to list Breno Giacomini’s name among Seahawks who need to improve because he looks like the kind of guy who would fight me for putting his name in print. Especially referencing something negative.
As a general rule I tend avoid saying anything negative about anyone who is 6’7” and over 300 pounds, but at times this season Giacomini has made me miss Sean Locklear, which I didn’t even think was possible.
His penalties this season have been costly ones for the team. A holding call is a lot easier to blow off when your quarterback throws an incomplete pass or you have a rush for a minor gain, but Giacomini's penalties always seem to come at the worst possible time and kill drives.
On the plus side, he’s the only guy who doesn’t ever seem to get injured, so at least he provides some consistency on the line. Also, like Russell Wilson, he has looked much better in the last five weeks than he did in the first few weeks of the season.
One word: Penalties.
You may think Giacomini has the most flags this year, but Russell Okung is actually the most penalized player on the team, and that has to change in the second half of the season. Cut down on the penalties and he’s fighting with Max Unger as the best player on the Seahawks' offensive line.
Okung has taken on some dominant pass-rushers this season in Kyle Vanden Bosch, Clay Matthews, and Jared Allen. Best of all, he hasn't allowed a single sack on Russell Wilson.
Considering more than half of Okung's penalties came in the first two games of the season, he has done well to keep them down recently and I expect he will do so as the season continues.
In past seasons, he has also struggled with injuries. It will be an improvement if Okung can play more than 12 games this season, and Seattle will need him to finish because they don't have anyone near his talent to fill in, if he goes down.
Tom Cable has done an excellent job with the offensive linemen he has and their ability to shift positions when injuries occur.
The Seahawks' offensive guard position this season has been a rotating carousel among two high draft picks from 2011, a 2012 seventh rounder and an NFL journeyman. After picking on Giacomini and Okung, essentially I’m singling out everyone on the offensive line not named Max Unger.
The foursome of James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Paul McQuistan, and J.R. Sweezy all need to show improvement after the bye. Hopefully. the rest allows some time for Moffitt and Carpenter to get healed, and put the team in a position where they can consistently start a group of guys for the final six games of the season.
The Seahawks' offensive line has clearly improved by providing Wilson with much more time than they offered him early in the season, but I'd still like to see them get more of a push in the run game to help Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch gets a ton of credit for his toughness, and if his will weren't as strong as it is—he would have significantly more losses from getting hit initially in the backfield.
Note: If you've come back to this slide and are wondering how I came up with 10 Seahawks when I've listed four guards on this slide alone then you can assume I left out McQuistan because he has done relatively well in his backup role or that I left out Sweezy since I don't expect he'll play much if the others can stay healthy.
Russell Wilson has proven he can be one of the top quarterbacks in the league, as long as he’s playing at CenturyLink Field. On the road has been a different story.
Wilson isn’t the only one looking to overcome struggling on the road, for many years now Seattle has long been plagued with struggles on the road. But it’s going to take a guy like Wilson to motivate his offense and get the team off to a fast start.
The Seahawks have done very well in terms of their opening drives. The recent game at home against the New York Jets was actually the first time Wilson wasn’t able to get the team into scoring position on their first offensive possession. When a fast start can take opposing fans out of the game early, Wilson needs to make sure the Jets game is an anomaly.
But it's not as if there isn't hope. His most recent game against Detroit shows Seattle can play an early game on the road and play well, at least on offense. The Seahawks have yet to put a game together on the road where they've looked solid on both sides of the ball.
The next two weeks against Miami and Chicago are going to be a big test for Wilson. If he can continue to put out performances like the one against the Lions, then Seattle should have a winning record on the road over its final six games.
Moving on to the defense, which is a bit more difficult considering how well the team has played overall this year. There is one player on defense who stands out in terms of his need for improvement.
Simply put, Red Bryant needs to get back to being the presence against the run that he was in 2010. Pete Carroll shifted him there after taking over for Jim Mora Jr., and Bryant made the new coach look brilliant before going down to injury later in the season.
Last year, Bryant improved his repertoire by becoming adept at blocking field-goal attempts. He was solid against the run at times, but not as consistent, and it was still enough to earn a new contract.
However, this year he really hasn't shown much in terms of stopping the run or blocking field goals.
Bryant's new contract has him making $3 million this year. Next year that number goes up to $6.5 million, and there are additional jumps in subsequent years.
2010 was a great year for Bryant, but if he can’t move toward improving to where he was last season, then Bruce Irvin is going to find himself playing a lot more than just passing downs. If that happens, Bryant may be looking for a new team or get forced into restructuring his contract.
It's tough to say one of the league’s best safeties needs to improve, but from what I've seen Earl Thomas isn’t playing as well as he did last year when he made the Pro Bowl.
On several occasions through the first 10 games, Thomas has either dropped catchable balls for interceptions or been just a couple of steps short of making a disrupting hit on third down.
Part of what makes it difficult to judge calls like this is how Thomas shows incredible range, so some of those plays are ones that no other safety in the league would have any business coming close to making. But comparing the plays he made last year to this year, there have been instances where he has shown a slight decline.
He’s ranked among the leaders with pass defenses, but I suspect he also ranks highly in missed tackles particularly against the run. Of course backs like Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson are good at making guys miss, and are the only two games where the Seahawks allowed their opponent to run wild, but Seattle will need to be tough against the run to be successful. When the Seahawks go up against Gore again, it shouldn't even be left up to Thomas to make the tackle.
Primarily what bothers me is that I’m seeing an awful lot of midseason honors lists with Dashon Goldson’s name on them. Some of these aren’t even league-wide lists—they only reference the NFC West. If Thomas isn’t even the best at his position in the division, then I want to see improvement.
Seahawks fans know he has the talent to be one of the best, if not the best player in the league at his position, and he needs to play to that level coming out of the bye week.
Many of you are doing a double take at your monitor or cell phone right now after seeing Richard Sherman’s name listed among Seahawks players who need to improve. Let me assure you that I believe Sherman has no need for improvement in terms of his play on the field.
What worries me is that his trash talk has dropped off significantly in recent weeks. Perhaps he’s reserving his best smack for top talent and feels like Percy Harvin, or whoever the Jets have at wide receiver now, don’t deserve the same level of enthusiasm he shows when going up against Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, or his former head coach at Stanford.
My hope is that he starts to target Brandon Marshall in the coming weeks as his next huckleberry. One week later he goes back up against Larry Fitzgerald. If he’s not back at the top of his game by then, well, at least he has made his point and is now on the national radar.
All he has to do is continue what he has been doing and he’ll get his lei come January. Of course, my hope is they'll be forwarding it to whatever hotel the Seahawks are staying at in New Orleans.
Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the Military Sea Hawkers, the military chapter of the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit www.militaryseahawkers.com Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.