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5 questions with Field Gulls: Are the Seattle Seahawks about to undergo a rebuild?

Getting to know the enemy

Chicago Bears v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It’s almost over, Detroit Lions fans. Just two more games left. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gone from begging for it to be over to not wanting to end faster than I thought was humanly possible. Just when the Lions started to get interesting, the season is ending.

Here we are now, going to the west side of the country to face the Seahawks in Seattle— place where the Lions haven’t won a game since the song I referenced at the beginning of this paragraph came out in 1999.

The Seahawks are an interesting bunch. It seems like they’re always in the playoffs and now they’re a 5-10 team that is maybe on the brink of going into rebuild mode? Is Russell Wilson playing in his final couple games in Seattle? I don’t know. That’s the point of this article.

We got in touch with our pal Mookie Alexander from Field Gulls to answer these two questions and a few others for us. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Are the Seahawks headed for a rebuild?

“Probably not. If they trade Wilson then chances are it is a full-on rebuild because the teams that would trade for him already have inferior starting quarterbacks. Should they rebuild? I think so. They really are not in the same class as their NFC West counterparts in terms of overall talent. You can argue that a healthy Russell Wilson would’ve prevented this team from going 5-10, but they weren’t good enough to win the division anyway and could’ve very well been fighting just to make the playoffs in the first place.

Seattle also has notable free agents at left tackle (Duane Brown), right tackle (Brandon Shell), center (Ethan Pocic), running back (Rashaad Penny), cornerback (DJ Reed), and free safety (Quandre Diggs). Bobby Wagner, one of the greats of Seahawks football and a future Hall of Famer, could be a cap casualty this offseason at a position where Seattle barely has any playable depth. They have a lot to think about with the number of expiring contracts in addition to the uncertainty of Wilson’s future with the team. I think they are far closer to needing a rebuild to be a genuine Super Bowl contender again as opposed to just tweaking a couple of pieces here and there. They’ve done the latter for a few seasons running and aren’t any closer to contention than they were in, say, 2018.”

2. Are these the last two weeks of Russell Wilson’s time in Seattle?

“I hope not. If you make me choose between coach and quarterback I’m going Wilson and waving Carroll goodbye in the most classy manner possible. I do think that Russell is past his prime in the sense that he is a far less dangerous runner than he used to be, and in 2021 he has bizarrely just barely tried running at all. I’ve got him charted for only one designed read-option keep and most of his other runs are scrambles, sneaks, or kneels. It’s not like Wilson is Philip Rivers-esque all of a sudden, but the speed dropoff is noticeable. His recent accuracy issues I can mostly attribute to the finger injury, which was clearly a problem immediately after coming back, and an offseason for Wilson to get healthy and have a different voice guiding him could create a career revival akin to Aaron Rodgers once he was paired up with Matt LaFleur.

The only way Wilson goes is if he wants to go. He has a no-trade clause and if he waives it then sadly Seattle’s greatest ever QB is going elsewhere, but I think the Seahawks will try and keep him here at least through next season. And if they don’t and we have Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider finding his replacement... I’m not gonna be happy. Their two previous attempts to find a franchise QB were an insane trade for Charlie Whitehurst and signing Matt Flynn. I say no more.”

3. What are the Seahawks strengths?

“Even with Russell Wilson having a down year by his standards, Seattle’s offense still creates plenty of big plays in the passing game especially off of play-action. Of Russell’s 18 touchdown passes, 8 of them have been longer than 20 yards which is top-10 among all QBs. If his chemistry with DK Metcalf has not been great in recent weeks, Tyler Lockett remains the team’s best deep threat and can take the top off of any defense. He’s one of the best receivers in the NFL in terms of yards per reception (16.2). The rushing attack hasn’t been a season-long strength, but Rashaad Penny has shed his oft-injured label and ranks 3rd among all running backs in rushing yards this December. He’s coming off a 135-yard day against the Bears, two weeks after a career-best 137 yards against the Texans. Unlike Chris Carson, Penny has the speed to get past tacklers in the second level and he’s shown some power to his game, too.

The defense has been subject to a lot of debate over whether they’re actually good. They allow only 20 points per game which is 7th best in the NFL, but advanced metrics like DVOA and EPA do not rate them highly. What Seattle does do well is get 3rd down stops (9th best) and prevent teams from getting touchdowns in the red zone (5th best). One area where they’re undeniably great is stopping the run. Their 3.7 yards per carry allowed is 2nd best in the NFL and they rank 9th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA stat. Poona Ford, Al Woods, and Bryan Mone are the interior linemen who play a major part in stuffing running backs in the backfield.

On special teams, Michael Dickson is one of the NFL’s best punters. He punted the ball twice on one play earlier this season because he’s Michael Dickson.”

4. What are their weaknesses?

“Offensively, Wilson takes a lot of sacks in part because of his own tendency to hold the ball way too long, but also in part because the offensive line isn’t exactly great (what a surprise). Seattle goes 3-and-out more often than all but the Jaguars and Texans, so getting the Seahawks to 3rd down is usually the end of the drive. Defensively — some of this falls on the offense not sustaining drives consistently — the Seahawks have faced the most plays and this is the second year in a row that it’s happened. They’re a bend but don’t break defense that often relies on that aforementioned 3rd down and red zone play. At the expense of not getting beaten deep, Seattle usually can be attacked on underneath routes and especially screen passes, where their lack of a consistent pass rush seemingly influences their eagerness to get after the QB when they falsely think they’ve generated an easy pressure. Unlike the LOB years, this Seahawks team does not generate takeaways. Of the 14 turnovers forced, 5 of them were against the 49ers, leaving 9 for the other 13 games. Not a very good rate, is it? A failure to get off the field sooner creates the TOP disparities and plays a role in the Seahawks’ tendency to face so many defensive plays.

The only clear special teams weakness is the performance of kicker Jason Myers, who after going 100% on his FGs in 2020 is just 13-19 this season and he’s also missed three extra points.”

5. Who’s winning this thing?

“Everyone when the clock hits 0:00 and we only have to watch our teams for one more week. I guess if Tim Boyle is starting (especially with two of the top three receivers on the COVID list) this will be a Seahawks win that’s not particularly entertaining to watch. We’ve had some embarrassing losses to backup QBs both this season and in seasons past, but Tim Boyle would be the lowest of low points.”

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