Postgame Hawk Talk: Broncos 27, Seahawks 24

Quick thoughts on the Seahawks’ worrisome opening game loss to the Broncos. I felt better after the 43-8 win.

Initial impressions

What a wild rollercoaster of a game, ultimately ending on a downturn for the new-look Seahawks. Here are my first impressions following the season opener:

– Denver doesn’t have the look of a great team this year, but the mile-high city provides a ridiculous home-field advantage in September. The franchise is 50-8-2 at home during the first two weeks of (post-merger) seasons, when starters are still rounding into game shape. It still felt like a winnable game though, making it all the more frustrating to watch them fall just short.

– The Legion of Boom era is unequivocally in the rear-view mirror, even with Earl Thomas back in the fold (and playing lights out). This defense is going to struggle a lot this season, which is exactly what happened on Sunday. The run defense was average at best, while both the pass rush and coverage were a far, far cry from the level we’ve become accustomed to.  It’s hard to pinpoint one thing they did well besides collecting three turnovers. If not for Case Keenum’s ineptitude and an MVPunter to be named later, Denver’s mediocre offense might’ve dropped 40 on us.

– The running game needs to be a strength for this team, yet it continued to hold the offense back yesterday. Chris Carson clearly outperformed 1st round pick Rashaad Penny, and even he lost a fumble. And where’s the commitment to run the ball that Pete Carroll shoved down our throats all offseason?

– Doug Baldwin is going to miss some time with a Grade 2 partial MCL tear. That’s a major concern for a receiving core otherwise lacking much in the way of dynamic playmakers. Russell Wilson appeared to trust Brandon Marshall most in his absence, though his best days are way behind him. Tyler Lockett also provided some fireworks with a beautiful route on his touchdown catch. Yet it’s fair to question if he can step up as the de-facto #1 WR in this offense. Preseason star David Moore only played 16 snaps, so I hope to see him earn some more opportunities moving forward.

Russell Wilson not good enough

I’ll get this out of the way first – I’m an unabashed Russell Wilson-apologist. At a time when league-wide QB play is arguably better than ever, I think Wilson is one of the best. Somewhere in that next tier after Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and he’s been that guy ever since the second half of his rookie season. One game doesn’t change that, especially not one in which he threw 3 TD passes and averaged over 9 yards/attempt.

However, the 2018 Seahawks need more from Wilson than the same old ups and downs. This team can’t afford for him to be anything other than a consistently elite, MVP-level quarterback. Is that asking a lot? Hell yes it is, but those are the expectations for a QB looking to blow up the salary curve in the NFL.

Instead, we saw many of the same issues that have plagued him at times throughout his NFL career:

  • Holding on to the ball too long.
  • Not trusting his reads and/or not finding the open receiver.
  • Taking horrific sacks spinning back against the grain rather than throwing the ball away.
  • Struggling to convert 3rd downs.

All that said, I’d caution fans from reading too much into some of the inevitably reactive anti-Wilson chatter you’ll see this week (especially on Twitter). A lot of the usual caveats apply:

  • The pass protection didn’t appear to be terrible for the most part, but it was far from good.
  • We don’t see the all-22 footage on live broadcast – I’m guessing Seattle’s depleted receiving core largely struggled to separate vs. the Broncos’ terrific back-seven.
  • The running game provided little support to the offense aside from a couple impressive Chris Carson-runs.

It takes a special quarterbacking performance to overcome all of that, and it didn’t happen.  Wilson appeared ready to command Brian Schottenheimer’s offense in the preseason, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back under the MNF lights next week in Chicago. We need his magic every week though, or it could be a long season for the Seahawks.

Three up

Michael Dickson

It seems hard to believe, but Dickson is a game-changer at the punter position. His 57.5 net average was the 2nd-best single-game mark in NFL history. And that was his first game! The kid has it all – a booming leg, hangtime, pinpoint placement, and the creativity to control the bounce. It’s a little easier to tolerate the massive sack-losses on 3rd-down when you’ve got Dickson tilting the field. He’s a legit weapon, and he helped save the defense from looking at an embarrassing number on the scoreboard.

Sublime Safeties

God, I love Earl Thomas on the football field. He made an immediate mark on the game with a gorgeous PBU on the first drive and an interception on the second. He earned the Seahawks’ highest PFF grade with a complete performance on the back-end. Not to be outdone, Bradley McDougald snagged two INT’s of his own. I shudder to think of what this defense would like with Tedric Thompson in for Thomas. Earl was on a slight pitch count in the high altitude, but he should be ready to rock full-time moving forward.

Will Dissly

What a beast! I compared Dissly to Zach Miller before the Draft when I called him the top potential Seahawks target at TE. That was due to his blocking prowess (which looked great vs. Denver by the way), but he made some huge plays as a receiver in his first career game:

Dissly didn’t flash a whole lot as a receiver at the college level, yet I was surprised by how effective he was after the catch during tape-study. Despite being a limited overall athlete, he’s got very quick, balanced footwork, and the man’s a load to bring down.

It’s rare for rookie tight ends to make a big impact, so I’m incredibly impressed with the early returns. I could keep gushing about his effort all day long. Dissly split snaps with Nick Vannett almost evenly, and he should remain a staple in the lineup even when Ed Dickson returns.

Four down

Pass rush

I’ve watched the tape back once already, and the pass rush looked just as inept on focused viewing. The Seahawks managed only 7 pressures on Keenum (per PFF), with no one particularly standing out. Frank Clark padded his stats for contract negotiation-time with a sack, though he failed to create consistent pressure. Rasheem Green and Quenton Jefferson couldn’t match their preseasons flashes, and there was virtually no interior disruption. Dion Jordan was the most effective pass rusher in his limited snaps, so his role should grow quickly.

Germain Ifedi

Ifedi had no chance vs. Von Miller, who finished with 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles (1 recovery). The colossal mismatch was obvious going in, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch. Is it too soon for George Fant to take over? With Khalil Mack and Demarcus Lawrence on deck at left end the next two weeks, it might not take much longer. Ifedi is without-a-doubt a first round bust, and one I saw coming a mile away when Seattle drafted him.

Rashaad Penny

Gross. I had good things to say about Penny following the draft, but alter-ego Rashaad Perry showed up on Sunday. (Seriously, what the heck was that!?). Penny’s gained about 15 lbs of bad weight since the NFL Combine and it really shows. He looks slow and unable to create. And the play-calling did him no favors either. His role should be dialed back a bit with Carson obviously out-playing him.

Tre Flowers & Shaquem Griffin

These guys struggled as much as I expected coming in. They’re both 5th-round rookies after all, who opened their careers starting at different positions than they did in college. That they were needed to start this game speaks volumes about the state of Seahawks’ defense. Not only has the talent-level dropped off considerably, but the depth is alarmingly thin as well.

The depth issue really applies to the whole roster. These Seahawks have the talent to win games and compete, but everything needs to go just right. And that rarely happens in the NFL. Injuries are already taking their toll (Baldwin, K.J. Wright, etc.), and losing any more quality starters could make this a lost season. The truth hurts sometimes.

On to the next one. Go Hawks!