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Seattle Seahawks 2017 First Quarter Honors
Who's The Seahawks' MVP Through The First Four Games?
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The Seahawks are a quarter of the way through the regular season with a 2-2 record. Looking up in the standings at this week’s opponent, the Los Angeles Rams, isn’t where the Seahawks want to be, but the start of the season has hardly been a disaster either. Yes, there’s still work to be done, particularly in how they start games offensively, but the Seahawks have seen some encouraging signs, particularly in last week’s win over the Indianapolis Colts.
“I like where we jumped to this last week,” Carroll said when asked about where his team stands after four games. “We’ve been close to doing a lot of good stuff, it just hasn’t clicked like we’d like… We can get started better, but I think we are ready to move on. I really think we can keep going, and I think our guys have really captured what we are after in terms of the formula of it, and it always comes back to the running game and converting on third downs for the offense, and playing good run defense and staying on top on defense. What was great was the pass rush was really alive .We finally got to see what it was like to be ahead. We haven’t had a score that really got out in front like you need to really get all that cranking. So a lot of great things that we’ve learned in the first quarter, and we are playing a very important game for our division positioning right now, which doesn’t mean anything this time of year, but we know where we are.”
Before the Seahawks kick off the second quarter of their season with that “very important game” against the Rams, we look back at who and what stood out in the first quarter.
Offensive MVP: QB Russell Wilson
Four games into the season, Seattle’s quarterback is still a bit off his career averages in completion percentage and passer rating, but he’s still playing very well overall. Yes, he missed a few throws, particularly in Seattle’s second and third games, but he has also made a lot of big plays, and has put up huge numbers the past two games, passing for 668 yards and six touchdowns while posting passer ratings of 110.3 and 107.5.
And as is always critically important to Carroll, Wilson has for the most part taken care of the ball well. He did throw his first two interceptions of the season last week, but one of those bounced off of Jimmy Graham’s hands. Going forward, Carroll sees Wilson in a very good place, mentally, to build off of last week’s performance in which he posted the second highest completion percentage of his career (80.8)
“I think that Russ just was really in the best frame of mind going into the game,” Carroll said a day after the win over the Colts. “He has played great in every game at some portion of it, basically after the game got started—we didn’t get started the way we would like—but I think he is just trying so darn hard to do so well, he was trying to do perfect. He just got really comfortable, he was really comfortable in pregame and how he was going in. He prepared during the week to be clear and not try to do too much with the first series, second series and all that, and he did great. When we needed it to happen, he was there for us and he was on it. He made some huge plays, some great scrambles, good runs, good decisions, saw a couple things just beautifully and fixed calls to get us in good positions to make plays. He played a terrific football game.”
Doug Baldwin, who is on pace for a third straight 1,000-yard season, also deserves mention in this category.
Defensive MVP: LB Bobby Wagner
Wagner is a bit off last season’s franchise-record pace when it comes to tackles, but even if Wagner isn’t able to match the NFL-leading 167 tackles he posted in 2016, he is still playing like one of the league’s best defensive players. Wagner leads the team in tackles with 33, has half a sack and somewhat surprisingly, he leads the team in passes defensed with three. Wagner has also come up with some big plays early this season, including an interception Seattle’s Week 2 win over San Francisco, and a fumble return for a touchdown last weekend.
Of course, as is always the case with a Seahawks defense, it’s hard to pick just one player to recognize. Michael Bennett has a team-high 3.0 sacks and ranks fifth in the NFL with six tackles for loss, Richard Sherman continues to be one of the league’s premier corners—his stats don’t jump out simply because teams are avoiding him—K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor are again playing like Pro Bowlers, and Earl Thomas is back from last year’s season-ending knee injury and still one of the game’s elite defensive players.
Special Teams MVP: S Bradley McDougald
With three of Seattle’s top special teamers—Dewey McDonald, Neiko Thorpe and D.J. Alexander—all missing time due to injuries, McDougald has stepped up and been Seattle’s most consistent special teams contributor. A free-agent addition this offseason, McDougald provides starter-quality depth behind Thomas and Chancellor, but he’s also proving to be a very valuable special teams player, recording a team-high six tackle in that phase of the game. Several others deserve mention there for stepping up with all of those key injuries, including Tre Madden, Justin Coleman, Delano Hill, Amara Darboh and Tanner McEvoy.
Seattle’s specialists are also off to good starts. Jon Ryan has had pinned opponents inside their 20 with eight of his 22 punts, and his net average of 40.7 is his best since 2012 when he posted a career-best mark of 40.8. Blair Walsh has been solid, drilling six of seven field goal attempts and eight of nine extra points, and his thanks both to his kickoffs as well as good coverage, the Seahawks are allowing only 18.1 yards per return on kickoffs, which ranks fifth in the league. And long snapper Tyler Ott’s snaps haven’t really stood out, which in that line of work is a very good thing.
Best Rookie: RB Chris Carson
Seattle has gotten some solid contributions from a number of rookies, including Shaquill Griffin, who has played very well in significant time at cornerback, Nazair Jones, who has been a disruptive force on the defensive line, and as mentioned earlier, Hill and Darboh making contributions on special teams. But four games into the biggest rookie contribution has come from a seventh-round pick, running back Chris Carson.
Carson didn’t just make the roster in a crowded backfield, he was a surprising choice to emerge as Seattle’s starting running back ahead of veterans like Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy. Four games into the season, Carson leads the Seahawks with 208 rushing yards on 49 carries, and he also has seven catches for 59 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown.
Unfortunately for Carson and the Seahawks, he was placed on injured reserve this week following a leg and ankle injury sustained in Sunday’s win. Carson, who had surgery Tuesday, has an outside shot of getting back this season, Carroll said, but if that happens, it will be a while, as players returning from injured reserve have to wait at least eight weeks to be eligible to do so.
Best Newcomer: DT Sheldon Richardson
The Seahawks made a big splash just before the start of the season, acquiring Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in a trade with the New York Jets. Richardson’s 12 tackles and two quarterback hits don’t exactly jump off the stat page, but those numbers don’t show the impact he has had, particularly in how he forces teams to pick their poison when it comes to blocking linemen like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark.
“I just love his energy,” Wagner said. “As soon as he stepped in the building, he kind of just fit right in with us. It’s another person out there running around making plays. He’s fighting to make tackles, getting off blocks. It’s another guy you have to account for. It helps make us unblockable up front, because who are you going to double-team?”
Richardson is hardly the only non-rookie newcomer making an immediate contribution, however. Both of Seattle’s starting guards, Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi, are free-agent additions, and their depth on defense has improved in large part because of players acquired this offseason like McDougald, cornerback Justin Coleman, defensive end Marcus Smith and linebackers Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin.
Best Play: Paul Richardson’s Go-Ahead Touchdown vs San Francisco
The play itself was impressive, from Wilson’s ability to escape pressure to the throw he made while running to his left to the leaping catch Richardson made in the corner of the end zone. But what makes this play stand out over other memorable plays from the first quarter of the season, including two defensive scores last week, was the significance of the play and what Richardson went through prior to making it.
For starters, the Seahawks really needed that score. At the time, they were trailing the 49ers in the fourth quarter and had yet to score a touchdown through seven quarters, but Wilson’s pass to Richardson gave Seattle the lead for good. And secondly, and this is not an insignificant detail, Richardson was playing with a dislocated finger.
Yet despite having his figure stitched up mid-game, Richardson came back with two fingers taped together and still made the play of the game.
Best Comebacks: Earl Thomas & Tyler Lockett
Both Thomas and Lockett saw their 2016 seasons end early due to broken legs, but both were on the field when the Seahawks opened this season. Lockett continues to be a big part of the offense as well as a dynamic threat in the return game, while Thomas is still flying around the back end of Seattle’s defense, looking every bit like the All-Pro safety he was before the injury.
Thing To Build On: Offensive Progress
Seattle’s offense struggled out of the gate, scoring only one touchdown in its first two games—and that came in the fourth quarter of Week 2. In the past two games, however, the Seahawks have scored 73 points, and while two of the touchdowns were scored by the defense, the offense, which has gained 910 yards in the last two weeks, has more than held its own, particularly in the second half of those games. Particularly encouraging last week was Seattle’s ability to gain 194 yards on the ground and go 10 for 15 on third down.
If there is a concern still, it’s that the offense was slow to get going in the first half of the past two games despite the big final numbers. But the continued growth of the line, the outstanding play of Wilson the past two weeks, and the improvements in the running game all point to the offense heading in the right direction.
Things To Clean Up: Allowing Big Plays
Seattle’s defense has for the most part been outstanding this season, keeping Aaron Rodgers in check in Green Bay, and all but shutting down the 49ers and Colts offenses in wins at home. Yet as well as the defense has played overall, some of their stats don’t reflect that, particularly their run defense, which ranks 27th in the league at 134 yards per game. For the vast majority of plays this season, the defense has actually been very good against the run, but in uncharacteristic fashion for a Carroll defense, the Seahawks have given up a few huge plays this year, most notably a 61-yard run against San Francisco, a 75-yard touchdown run against Tennessee and a 55-yard touchdown pass against the Titans. The Seahawks cut back on big plays last week, which was an encouraging sign, but for one of the league’s best defenses to truly live up to its potential, they’ll have to keep eliminating the big plays that have somewhat tainted an otherwise stellar start to the season.