The Seahawks are back home after Sunday's win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, and now they head into their bye week with a 3-1 record and plenty of reasons to feel good about the direction in which they're headed. Head coach Pete Carroll talked about the optimistic feeling surrounding his team, the Seahawks' health and more during his weekly appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday morning.
In addition to Carroll being impressed by what he saw from the University of Washington while watching the Huskies' win over Stanford during Friday's flight to New Jersey—"You can see the ascent of the program," Carroll said—here are five things we learned from Carroll's appearance on the Brock and Salk Show:
1. Carroll Is "Really Excited" About Where His Team Is Headed
When the Seahawks came out of their bye last season, they did so playing much better on offense in part because they used that time off to put a big emphasis on getting the ball out on time in the passing game. The results were impressive, with Russell Wilson and his receivers finishing the season on fire, and that turnaround helped spark a late-season surge that got the Seahawks into the playoffs.
The Seahawks again hope to make improvements coming out of the bye this year, but this time the changes likely won't be as obvious, because the Seahawks are a lot happier with the way they're playing right now.
"It's not as dramatic, because we're in such better shape right now in so many ways," Carroll said.
Carroll noted that the team is giving up fewer sacks than they were at this time a year ago and have more sacks on defense, and that if they can continue to get turnovers like they did Sunday against the Jets, they'll get on the right side of turnover differential soon as well.
"I like where we're going, I like what's happening, I think our attitude is in the right place, the defense, we've got to maintain the surge that we're capable of doing, and then just keep building on it," he said. "I'm really excited about what's coming up. I think we have a hell of a football team.
"I think we're better. We're starting this thing off better. Everything about the offseason, everything about camp, the preseason has been more on point. The consistency you're seeing on defense is the result of that. We're playing really hard consistently. Each game looks like the last game. That's a really good sign; you don't see this up-and-down thing. That's the steady factor of the whole makeup of the team."
And another reason for optimism is that the Seahawks should return from their bye in very good health…
2. The Seahawks Will Be Pretty Healthy After The Bye
When it comes to improving after the bye, the changes will be less about scheme, and more about, as Carroll notes, "inserting the guys who are coming to life now… Nick (Vannett) is a really good football player and we're excited to see what he's going to do. (C.J.) Prosise, we have big thoughts on how we're going to use him too. Then Thomas (Rawls) is going to come back a couple of weeks after that, so we've got some real good additions."
In addition to getting Prosise and Vannett back soon, Tyler Lockett should be healthier after being limited the last two games by a knee injury.
"We've protected him," Carroll said of Lockett. "We haven't played him as much. We want to take care of him, because he's not quite 100 percent, but he has just been a stud about it, he has been awesome—so many guys have. He was able to help us and contribute to the game, but these next few weeks, he'll be in great shape."
Carroll also said that starting defense tackle Jarran Reed should be back when practice resumes next week. Reed missed Sunday's game with a hip injury.
And of course Wilson, who is dealing with knee and ankle injuries, "is a guy who is really going to benefit from" the bye.
Coming out of the bye, Carroll said the Seahawks are "going to feel the depth of our roster."
3. The Seahawks Offense Is Balanced, Not Run First
Carroll's conversation with Brock Huard and Mike Salk included an important distinction about Seattle's offense that is often overlooked when people discuss the team's offensive philosophy. At one point, Huard mentioned the Seahawks striving to be "run-first" and Carroll interrupted, saying, "I've never said that. I've said we're a balanced team. That's what we are, a balanced team."
And indeed, if you ever bring that topic up with Carroll, he doesn't say run-first, he says balanced. This isn't a shift; it's how Carroll has always thought, but sometimes other people, including his own players, have referred to it as run-first, and that moniker has seemed to stick, even if it's not accurate.
Last week the Seahawks had a more even run-pass balance, while on Sunday they ran 26 times and passed 32 times. Why? Because the Jets were hard to run against, and because they Seahawks were making big plays in the passing game. Being balanced isn't about stubbornly trying to have the same number of runs and passes every game, it's about being able to do both depending on what a particular game calls for.
"Here's the key, when a week ago we were running the football, we had great balance in the numbers and all of that," Carroll said. "This week was harder, and we had the opportunity to throw the football and thought we could protect, do a good job there, and we did. That's what balance presents for this team, you have a chance to go where you need to go to win the game. Without that, if you're committed one way or the other—what if the wind's blowing, what if it's storming and you can't throw? That's the whole point is to be ready for all situations.
"We're just trying to do what we can do to win the game. We're trying to do the things that are the best for the plan and matching up with people that we're playing, and the more capable we are, the better opportunities we have to go where the vulnerability may be. That's the whole point."
4. The Offensive Line Is Making Significant Progress
As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons that Carroll is optimistic about his team's play going forward is what he has seen from the line early this season. Despite losing two starters in free agency and moving another, Justin Britt, from guard to center, Seattle's new-look line has started the season playing better than last year's line did before it turned things around and played well down the stretch.
"How about this one," Carroll said. "We had 18 sacks at this point last year, nine sacks this year. There you go, that's what we're talking about. We're better. We felt that we were better, you can see that we're better, and we can still improve a great deal too. That's a really talented (Jets) front four, now, they're loaded. They've got top-15 picks across the board there, so our guys hung in there great."
Carroll was also excited about what he saw from first-round pick Germain Ifedi, who made his first start at right guard after missing the first three games with an ankle injury. While there's still plenty of room for growth for Ifedi, Carroll said, "Germain did a really good job. You can feel his presence, you can see what he can do."
5. Chemistry Between Russell Wilson & Jimmy Graham Is Evident, But There's Still Room For Growth
Carroll is understandably excited about what Graham has brought to the Seahawks offense of late, eclipsing 100 yards in each of the past two games.
"It's so exciting, it's so factoring into the momentum of our play and all," Carroll said. "It just accentuates that we have more things that they have to deal with."
The Seahawks wanted to get Graham more involved in the offense sooner, but as Carroll described it, "We weren't ready to. We were trying, we had calls, it was there to be had, but we just couldn't get to that point, because there hadn't been enough time for us to connect. Those guys are on it, and we're really excited about it."
Yet as impressive as the connection between Wilson and Graham has been of late, it can still get better. To illustrate that fact, Carroll pointed to a play in the red zone Sunday where Wilson, knowing a blitz was coming, lobbed a ball into the end zone with Graham in one-on-one coverage, but Graham didn't see the ball in time.
"You'll see that connect soon," Carroll said. "… (Wilson) had to get rid of the football, they had a free rusher, so he had to get rid of the ball and he went to Jimmy in the corner, he lobbed it up and Jimmy didn't see the ball. But he'll see the ball and get one of those. That's the kind of chemistry we're talking about that we can continue to grow and develop."
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