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Seattle Seahawks 2012 Season: First Quarter Report Card

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I wanted to write about the Seahawks loss to the Rams 19-13, but it wasn’t a pretty or even coherent article by the time I finished it so I tossed it into the fire. Every loss pains me, I wouldn’t be a fan if it didn’t, but this one pained me more than usual. I had to think about it, ponder and contemplate it even, to figure out why it hurt more than usual.

While I was tapping my temple with my finger muttering, “Think, think. Think, think” and causing my children to eye me nervously, it occurred to me that this was the fourth game of the season, the end of the 1st quarter. Since my mother was a teacher, it seemed natural to do some 1st quarter grading so here’s what I came up with and why. Your reasoning may be different. In fact, I would be surprised if it weren’t, but this is how I see it so far.

Defense, ranked 4th overall: B+

Let’s start with the defense since it’s my favorite side of the ball. I’ve always enjoyed hitting over being hit, even when I played rugby, and could carry the ball instead of just blocking for the guy carrying it. Something about knocking the snot out of the other guy always gave me more of a rush, so that’s where I’m beginning this report card.

Breaking this down further, I would give the rush defense, ranked #2 in the league, an A. The pass defense, ranked #10, would be a little lower, more around a B-.

The rush defense has been very solid, not giving up 100 yards to any rusher through four games. That comes down to a dominant defensive line and active linebackers. I was worried when middle linebacker David Hawthorne went to New Orleans in free agency but rookie Bobbie Wagner has filled the void nicely.

The pass defense has been a little shakier, although still not bad. The secondary, corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, is in the running for the best young secondary in the league.

The pass rush has gotten better, culminating in eight first half sacks of Aaron Rodgers in the now infamous Monday Night Football game. What worries me about that is that after the first half, Rodgers didn’t really get hit again after the Packers adjusted. Not only that, the Rams followed those adjustments to keeping Sam Bradford clean too. The rush will have to adjust and adapt to keep moving forward.

Offense, ranked 27th overall: C-

The rush offense, ranked #6 in the league, has been excellent so far, earning an A.

Harking back to my rugby days again, with the ball in hand, it was almost as much fun to bring the violence to would be tacklers as it was to tackle. Marshawn Lynch is still bringing the pain to fools that try and take him down with an arm tackle. He’s also leading the league in rushing right now. It isn’t just his running ability either. Rookie Robert Turpin ran for 45 yards on 5 carries against the Rams.

The passing offense, ranked 32nd overall, gets a fat F- though. This is the Achilles heel for the Seahawks and it deserves to be delved into deeper to figure out why.

It all starts with the quarterback, of course, and rookie Robert Wilson has had a lot of the blame heaped onto his shoulders, some fairly and some unfairly. It always bothers me when fans start calling for the backup so quickly.

I have to be honest though, it bothered me a lot when Pete Carroll went with Wilson over Matt Flynn on the basis of the preseason. Yes, I agree that Wilson was exciting, even electrifying in those games. But face it, those are preseason games and every preseason has brought exciting players to the limelight that fade once the real lights are turned on.

I think there is some validity to the argument that Wilson was facing the second and third string defenses and should have looked good against them. I think it’s also valid to say that Flynn didn’t look as good in comparison because he seemed to spend a lot of time checking down and running a very bland offense.

After reading this article though, I find myself wondering if perhaps more check downs and situational recognition wouldn’t be a better thing for this team.

Part of the argument on Seattle sports talk radio is whether or not Wilson’s height plays a role in the problems he’s having. His supporters point to the Wisconsin offensive line he played behind being the biggest in college football.

I agreed with that early on but now not so much. If you have the biggest line in college, you should be controlling the line of scrimmage every down, every play. There should rarely be a time that your quarterback is bothered before he has a chance to scan the field and choose a target.

In the NFL, every line is big and the time you have is rarely more than three or four seconds. Another article on Football Outsiders lists the quickest and longest sacks each week. The longest is rarely longer than six seconds. A quarterback rarely has the time to make the progression he had in college; it’s just not possible.

Currently, Wilson is listed as the 31st quarterback in the league in QBR on ESPN’s website, ahead of only Brandon Weeden. He’s completed 60% of his pass attempts, and had 60 completions in 100 attempts for 594 yards.

Against the Rams, in the first drive, Wilson threw for 40 yards, three first downs and led the team to a touchdown. For the rest of the game, he threw for 100 net yards and went 0-3 on third down pass attempts. Those attempts ended in 2 sacks and an interception.

I know at least some of you are thinking I’m anti-Wilson. That’s not true; I think he could be a good, even very good quarterback in the future.

What I am is a fan of winning now, something Pete Carroll always preaches. I haven’t seen anything that leads me to believe the key to that is playing Russell Wilson over Matt Flynn right now.

What I’m not saying is that Flynn is the answer or will be the next Aaron Rodgers. Anyone who thinks that probably chanted for Charlie Whitehurst.

What I am saying is that right now, the pass offense is stuck in reverse. It is the anchor that is sinking a team that has a chance to be great in every other category. How long can the rush offense be so high if teams know they can just stack the box and dare Seattle to throw? How could Flynn be any worse than what we have now on the field?

How long will the defense be able to hold strong when they are on the field again after another three and out? Even more, how long will they want to?

There is more to the passing game than just Wilson. Play-calling is questionable, at best. Golden Tate, for example, runs horrible routes at times. Wilson can’t change that. But every time I think about the passing offense, I keep going back to that article and those screen shots. They don’t lie; there is more blame for the quarterback in this than the other elements.

Pete Carroll has shown that he’s not afraid to change boats in the middle of the river with other players. His first year here must have set a record in roster changes. Could it be that he’s invested so much ego into Wilson that he won’t back down? I find that hard to believe but the lack of progress Wilson has shown so far has me wondering.

Maybe Wilson is progressing, at a slower rate than I can see. That’s very possible and I certainly would hope it to be true. I can’t help thinking that if he’s progressing, then the opponents are too. Even I know he always bails to his right and back when he exits the pocket. At least one of the sacks against the Rams came when he ran right into a sack trying to get out to his right and rear.

I know everyone wants him to repeat what Cam Newton did in Carolina last season as a rookie. While I think Wilson could get there, he’s not there yet. Seahawks fans will see for themselves as Seattle visits the Panthers on Sunday to open the second quarter of the season.

Usually at the end of my report cards, teachers would put in comments about how I was a pleasure in class or that I spent too much time daydreaming. One of my favorites was that I could be great if I applied myself.

For this comments field, I would say that the Seahawks could be great, maybe even super, if only they applied Flynn. Only time, and a quarterback change, will tell.

Photo Credits: John Rieger/U.S. Presswire, TED S. WARREN/The Associated Press, Darron Cummings/AP Photo, Rick Wood, McClatchy-Tribune News Service/SF

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.