With the Bills playing the Seahawks on MNF in Week 9, I reached out to Kenneth Arthur, the EIC of Field Gulls.
Below you’ll find comprehensive analysis on a variety of Seattle topics.
Buffalo Rumblings: Using percentages, can you assign blame for the Seahawks' offensive struggles this season, between Russell Wilson, the offensive line, the scheme / Darren Bevell and the offensive skill position players?
Field Gulls: I'll start with the easy answer: Skill players, maybe like 2% because JImmy Graham had a couple ugly drops. Other than that, I love Seattle's skill players. From 2012 to 2016, it's been a complete turnaround in that regard. Doug Baldwin, Graham, Lockett alone are as good a trio as any in the NFL, I believe. Or close to it. When healthy, of course. Lockett hasn't been that healthy. And then when you start expanding after that: CJ Prosise, Paul Richardson, Nick Vannett, Luke Willson, Tanner McEvoy, Christine Michael, Jermaine Kearse ... I love it even more. I think the biggest key though is getting Thomas Rawls back, and he won't be active Monday night. He was amazing last season and is streets ahead of Michael. Actually scratch that, I'll go with 10% because Michael is a downgrade from Rawls and Lynch in previous seasons.
This won't be popular with Seahawks fans but: Darrell Bevell, like, 10%? Seattle had a top-10 offense from 2012 to 2015 by DVOA. They were the number one rushing team. Maybe Marshawn Lynch had a lot to do with that, but I love the way Bevell has built Wilson into a franchise QB over the last four and a half years, slowly ramping up his attempts, and always putting him in the position to do what he's most capable of doing at that stage in his career. Maybe he's not doing as good of a job at that this season, and I think his calls are sometimes questionable, but overall I can't sit here and tell you that he's just forgotten how to coach after four really, really successful seasons.
Offensive line I would go with 55%. Center Justin Britt's been okay, left guard Mark Glowinski seems fine, but everything else has been rather terrible. They had J'Marcus Webb at right guard for a few games while rookie Germain Ifedi healed from a high ankle sprain. Ifedi's been alright but definitely still a rookie. And right tackle Garry Gilliam's looked not so good while left tackle Bradley Sowell, and now UDFA rookie George Fant (who was strictly a basketball player at Western Kentucky two years ago) is the starter after Sowell sprained his MCL. The line is the biggest problem.
So that leaves like 25% for Wilson. Not his best season but he's been injured also. So who do you blame for the injuries? The offensive line? I think Wilson is doing a slightly worse job of protecting himself this season too and that's the biggest thing that separated him from Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton before this season -- He never put himself in harm's way. I think he's trying to do too much again and not trusting his receivers or he's too afraid of throwing a pick. He needs to get rid of the ball quicker, trust his receivers more, and worry less about turning the ball over because he's an amazing player and this is below his abilities as a passer and a QB.
BR: How effective has Frank Clark been filling in for Michael Bennett? What has the drop off from Bennett to Clark been?
FG: Well, Bennett has only missed one game so far and I don't think Clark strictly replaces him. Bennett is a much different player than Clark and for the most part Clark is going to play on the outside as a pass rusher, not move to the interior. At least, that wouldn't seem to be the long-term plan for him. They drafted a guy named Quentin Jefferson in the fifth round and he's on IR right now but after this season, Jefferson will be the prototype fill-in for Clark. That's not what you asked and has nothing to do with this week, so I'm sorry for going off-track.
Clark is awesome. He's an incredible pass rusher and that's what he was advertised as in the 2015 draft. The problem was his arrest record and a domestic violence charge -- I simply can't speak to that. The team said they did the research to feel comfortable that what happened that night was not what was alleged on the arrest report. The local papers said that the team did even talk to the proper witnesses. Clark has been in the NFL for a year and a half and we haven't heard so much as a peep about him getting into a locker room argument or a parking ticket. If it weren't for that incident, you'd think he was a model citizen with a high character. Hopefully that's how it goes for the next 10 years and beyond because he's an amazing player and I think regular 12-14 sack seasons could be in his future. The defense is of course a lot better with Bennett too because he's incredible as a 5-tech and so on, but they're still pretty good without him because of guys like Clark and Cliff Avril.
BR: Seems like the teams that have stayed dedicated to the run have had success in the W-L column against the Seahawks. Why do you think this is, especially considering Seattle's strong run defense?
FG: I guess the best answer I could give you is that the defense has played like four games worth of games in the last two weeks and right now teams might feel comfortable trying to attack a worn down defensive front seven? The Seahawks are 2nd in the NFL in run defense by DVOA and like, Arizona may have rushed 132 yards but that was in five quarters and they scored six points. The Falcons didn't run well against Seattle and they have Devonta Freeman, all of their scoring came in the third quarter with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. I think the Saints and Tim Hightower is probably somewhat a product of what I said earlier about them being tired but overall I don't know if sticking to the run will be a good game plan for most teams unless they get a lead and need to run down the clock, etc. The Bills are a different story because of how great their rushing offense is. I wouldn't say that I'm "confident" with the team going against LeSean McCoy, but run defense is definitely their strength.
BR: What has been the Seahawks' biggest strength this season? Their biggeest weakness?
FG: Strength would be defense. Just defense. Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Cliff Avril are all having Pro Bowl seasons, in my opinion. Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, Michael Bennett (when he was there), Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, Kelcie McCray, Ahtyba Rubin, Tony McDaniel are all right there behind them too. The run defense, despite giving up a few 100-yard games, has been phenomenal. Thomas is phenomenal. Avril is phenomenal. They've allowed two touchdowns total in seven first halfs, both came with seconds remaining before halftime. Can't say enough about the defense.
Weakness would strangely be the rushing game. They're a bottom-three unit and a lot of that has to do with offensive line, Wilson's injuries, and the loss of Thomas Rawls. Hopefully by Week 10 or 11, Wilson feels great and Rawls is back.
BR: Do the Seahawks really play almost exclusively Cover 3? Or do they use a variety of coverages? And are they a big blitzing team or do they mainly rely on their front four creating pressure?
FG: Here's a quote from our film guy, Samuel Gold, who knows more about football schemes than I will ever hope to know: "Their base coverage is Cover 3 pattern-match and they are in that a good portion of the time. They do play a variety of coverages, though. They don't blitz nearly as much as other teams. Maybe 20% of the time? Most teams are closer to 30%."
Sam also points out that they typically rush four and that would make sense because they do an above-average job of creating pressure with Avril, Bennett, Clark, and co. We've seen Wright pick up two sacks this year, Wagner's got one, but Seattle trusts the front four and believes in the second and third level to create coverage sacks as well. The Seahawks have 22 sacks in seven games and most of that is coming from Avril and Clark. Would be nice to see Kam Chancellor return though, he's been out a couple weeks with a groin injury. He's a key component of a lot of what they do and it's kind of surprising that they've played defense as well as they have recently.