After a slow start, Pete Carroll's team has won four of its past five games
This past offseason, the Seattle Seahawks moved on from several key players like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, who were stalwarts on a defense that led the team to two Super Bowl appearances in recent years. These moves created an impression around the league that Seattle was in a full-scale rebuilding mode heading into the 2018 season.
The first two games proved those experts right as the Seahawks just couldn’t consistently get anything going offensively in road losses at Denver and Chicago. However, head coach Pete Carroll made some key philosophical adjustments offensively by getting back to a run-first offensive approach and that has resulted four wins in their last five games.
This team also has gotten back to playing with a chip on their shoulder and having fun, win or lose, as that was an underrated part of Seattle’s previous run of success in the Legion of Boom era. The schedule does pick up in November with games against multiple playoff contenders but six of the last nine are at home at CenturyLink Field which helps a great deal.
Russell Wilson was forced to throw the football on nearly 60 percent of the offensive snaps in the first two games. This caused all sorts of issues as the offensive line was missing D.J. Fluker and Wilson ended up getting sacked six times in the loss at Denver. The Chicago game was a problem as well as Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears' defense kept the Seahawks' offense in check all night long.
However, once Seattle returned home to face the Dallas Cowboys the light went on for the offense. The Seahawks went back to a run-first offensive approach, which plays to the strengths of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and his preferred play-calling. The offense has been around a 60-40 split between run and pass over the last five games. Chris Carson has led the way with 457 rushing yards , averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and he is proving to be a tough guy to bring down, averaging 3.58 yards per attempt after the first contact.
Having a better balance on offense has let Wilson settle in and not worry about being a one-man show. He attempted just 19 passes in the 28-14 win over Detroit last week as the running game produced 176 yards on 42 carries.
The growth of the offensive line has helped a great deal as Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi are doing a nice job of leading the pass protection to set up big plays for the wide receivers and tight ends on a weekly basis.
Tyler Lockett and David Moore have emerged as quality targets for Wilson. Lockett leads the team in catches (25), yards (394) and touchdowns. Moore (11 rec., 221 yds., 4 TDs) has made the most of his opportunities and Doug Baldwin's injury issues. These guys will continue to try and stretch defenses and come up with the occasional big play as the schedule is about to get tougher for Seattle.
Turnovers have been a big reason for the Seahawks' resurgence on the defensive side of the ball. They have allowed yards at times, but have stepped up and made key plays in recent weeks during this 4-1 run they are currently on.
Bobby Wagner has been a rock at linebacker as he was the highest graded linebacker heading into last week’s game at Detroit, according to Pro Football Focus. Wagner has 39 tackles over seven games and is on pace to push for another 100-tackle season. K.J. Wright is back from a knee injury, and as he rounds into game shape you can expect Wright and Wagner to see their production go up.
Frank Clark has been having an outstanding contract year as he has been relentlessly causing havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Jarran Reed has done a nice job of plugging up the middle. If the Seahawks can continue to get production from guys like Quentin Jefferson and Jacob Martin, then this defense will only get better.
Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson are evolving into an excellent safety tandem replacing the injured Earl Thomas. McDougald has been all over the field as he has 42 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and six passes defended. Thompson has 23 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble as well. If these two guys stay healthy the rest of way watch out as they are going to do plenty of damage in the second half of the season.
Sebastian Janikowski has made eight of 11 field goals and has not missed an extra point so far this season. Janikowski is turning into a good upgrade over the head case that was Blair Walsh in 2017.
Rookie punter Michael Dickson is averaging 46.6 yards per punt and has landed 14 of his 35 punts inside the 20-yard line after seven games. It will be interesting to see how Dickson does once the weather deteriorates in Seattle as the wind and rain in November and December can cause havoc on punters.
The return game has been steady with Tyler Lockett and Rashad Penny handling kickoff returns for the most part during the first seven games. Lockett has been close to breaking one as he has a 42-yard return as his longest of the season to date. Before the season is done it would not be a surprise if Lockett broke off a couple of significant game-changing kickoff or punt returns.
Business is going to pick up as far as the overall quality of the quarterbacks that the Seahawks will face down the stretch of the season. It will be up to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to put his unit in a position to succeed with games against Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Cam Newton and Patrick Mahomes all on tap. The key is going to be to continue to cause turnovers and dominate with red zone defense.
There is a path to 10 wins for Seahawks. If they can sweep their three games with San Francisco and Arizona all they would need to do is go 3-3 against the six-game gauntlet of playoff-caliber teams. Look for this Seattle team to find a way to win nine or 10 games this season and possibly snag an NFC Wild Card berth.
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.