It's Week 14, the Seahawks are on a roll, and it's time to go into the Twitter mailbag for another Seahawks Q&A. As always, thanks to all who asked questions and keep this both informative and entertaining, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to your question this time around.
@yo_ger asks, "What made Russell Wilson emerge as a great passing quarterback?" And @kkurt13 asks, "Will Russell Wilson move into the MVP conversation if he stays hot in the Seahawks' final four games?"
A: Considering Wilson's play over the past three games, there were understandably a lot of Wilson-related questions this week. As for what has made Wilson excel of late, teammates say they have never seen Wilson play this well in his career, which is backed up by the numbers, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says that has more to do with the entire offense than anything Wilson is doing differently. Wilson has undoubtedly been more efficient throwing from the pocket, but again, Carroll says that's less an improvement in Wilson's game and more the growth of the offense as a whole.
"It's just the execution of the style and things that we've tweaked a little bit here and there," Carroll said. "I'm not surprised to see him being effective in the pocket as I hear people talking about, because he's shown that. I've been talking about it all year long, you can see it happening. He's very comfortable, and that's just growth. Remember, he's a fourth-year guy. We compare him to guys that have been playing ten, and twelve, and fifteen years in this league all the time. He's a fourth-year player, and he's doing remarkably well. He's on his way to having a great career. With that, I think you've seen the guys around him also grow too, and our protection has improved dramatically. But for the most part, it's a combination of factors that bring it out, and he's there to seize the opportunity to do well. His receivers are coming through and making great plays as well. So I think it's all those things together."
Whatever the reason, Wilson is playing phenomenal football in what has been the best three-game stretch of his career, throwing11 touchdowns with no interceptions while completing 76.7 percent of his passes.
Now is that enough to get him into the MVP conversation? Probably not yet, if only because Wilson still can't compete with the yardage and touchdown numbers of quarterbacks who throw more frequently. And if we're talking about quarterbacks who just have a big impact on a successful team without monster numbers, then it's hard to beat Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who leads a 12-0 team. If, however, Wilson keeps throwing three or four touchdowns per game and the Seahawks keep winning, then he might find himself in that debate four weeks from now.
And along similar lines…
@Magnus_Jamieson asks, "Where has the sudden chemistry between Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin come from?"
A: Wilson and Baldwin have been connecting more often and for more touchdowns than ever, with Baldwin hauling in 24 catches for 433 yards and six touchdowns over the past four games, but it wouldn't be fair to call this sudden chemistry. Baldwin was Seattle's leading receiver last year as well—and also in 2011 when Tarvaris Jackson was quarterback—and was second to Golden Tate in receiving in 2013, so he has always been one of Wilson's top targets.
Baldwin has always been a great route runner who regularly gets open, but in an offense that has been at or near the bottom of the league in pass attempts since 2012, catches can sometimes be hard to come by. But with the pass protection improving and with Wilson taking full advantage, Baldwin has had the ball find him more often of late.
"I don't think he has done anything different," Carroll said of Baldwin. "I think he's always been there for the opportunities, and he's such a great competitor. He always wants to contribute more and all that, which we love about him. I think just the emergence of his time spent in our offense with Russell and with his coaches. I think we're getting him in the right spots to take advantage of the plays that he can make. He has always been a playmaker. Remember his first year, he had set some record for the most first-down conversions by a free agent receiver since whenever, some big record like that. He's always been that kind of guy. So I don't think it's anything that different, yet we're able to take advantage of the things that both guys see more effectively. And he's at his best. I know as he matures as a pro and all that, he's as clear as he's ever been about what it takes and what he's after, and how he wants to go about it. It's kind of a natural progression of just an athlete emerging, and I think it's great that we're able to take advantage of it. I can't imagine him not having his best year. He'll just continue to go with this, I don't know what his numbers are in the past, but I can't see him not being a big factor in everything we're doing."
@GregBishopSI asks, "Best hair in Seattle Sports radio?"
A: I didn't have an answer for this one, but as you can see in the reply to Greg's question, 710 ESPN Seattle's Tom Wassell went ahead and crowned himself the winner. So congrats, Tom.
@Gink_1228 asks, "Does Tony Ventrella still cut hair? And if so, any of the Seahawks' hair?"
A: We're now apparently into the hair portion of this week's Q&A. For those who didn't know, Ventrella was a barber a long time ago before making his name in TV. And while he hasn't cut hair professionally in a quite a while, Ventrella did show back in 2009 that he still knows what he's doing, cutting off punter Jon Ryan's hair for Locks of Love.
@snemes2 asks, "How do you anticipate Tyler Lockett will rank among recent Seahawks WR draftees?"
A: Quite possibly at or near the top, especially if you're only counting draft picks and not undrafted free agents. While Doug Baldwin has been the best, most consistent receiver of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, he was undrafted, as was Seattle's other starting receiver, Jermaine Kearse. Golden Tate started slowly, but turned into a very good player, leading the Seahawks in receiving in 2013 before leaving in free agency. The Seahawks still have high hopes for last year's second-round pick Paul Richardson, but injuries kept him from having an impact this season. The Seahawks have otherwise had little success with drafted receivers, with fourth-round picks Kevin Norwood, Kris Durham and Chris Harper all having been released or traded.
Given his ability to contribute early, as well as his natural athletic ability, there's no reason to think Lockett can't rank up there with Baldwin as the best receiver of this era of Seahawks football when all is said and done, though to do so he'll have to prove it over time, something Baldwin has done for five seasons.
@Colemichels2 asks, "Any practice squad guys who could take Cary Williams' roster spot and make an impact, big or small?
A: If you're asking about cornerbacks in particular, the Seahawks do have two corners on the practice squad, George Farmer and Trovon Reed, though it would probably be unrealistic to expect either to have an immediate impact if they were promoted, as the Seahawks currently have a corner on the 53-man roster, rookie Tye Smith, who has been inactive on most game days.
That being said, the Seahawks' ability to develop practice squad talent is a big part of their success—current starters DeShawn Shead and Jermaine Kearse are just two of Seattle's practice squad success stories—so no one on the current practice squad should be counted out as a possible impact player down the road, even if that doesn't happen right away.
"We're developing every guy on the roster," Carroll said. "Our practice squad guys travel with us on every game. We take them with us, we want them to be a part of what's going on and connected. Because we find out more thing about them when they're with us longer and all of that. We invest in our practice squad guys in hopes that things will happen and guys will be available, and with the thought that they could jump in there and help us. So that's really important to us. And they are a good factor too, because they are kind of the young guys and they're pushing for it. When they do make their move and they get their chance, it's a big deal to the other guys on the roster. They always cheer for them and they're excited to see them have the chance to step up and all of that. So I think the whole dynamic of that is very important for them as a part of the makeup of the team."
@MoneyLynch24 asks, "Can you dab?"
A: No, I most definitely cannot, nor do I really feel the need to learn. We'll leave that to Panthers QB Cam Newton, who has earned the right to celebrate what has been a heck of a season for himself and his team.
@stretchjohnsen asks, "Thomas Rawls' yardage is greater than all but one of the 18 running backs drafted ahead of him. Will he surpass Todd Gurley by season's end?" And @Savage@RX11 asks, "Does Rawls have a shot at offensive rookie of the year?"
A: Indeed Rawls is having a great season, having rushed for more than 100 yards in four of six starts and ranking 10th in the league in rushing at 786 yards, not too far behind Gurley, St. Louis' first-round pick who has 835 yards. Gurley was on fire earlier in the season, rushing for 128 yards or more in four straight games, but his production has slowed down of late, meaning yes, there's certainly a chance that Rawls, whose 5.6 yard-per-carry average leads the league, could close the gap on Gurley over the final four games and end up being the rookie rushing leader.
As for the offensive rookie of the year discussion, if Rawls continues to put up big numbers and the Seahawks keep winning and playing well on offense despite the losses of Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham, then he definitely deserves to be in the running for that award. That being said, there are some other deserving candidates, including Gurley if he can finish strong, Raiders receiver Amari Cooper, who has 920 receiving yards, and quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston.
@soulcrusher asks, "If you could add any Seahawk from the past to this year's team, who would it be?"
A: There are plenty of great choices, but I'll go with Steve Largent for a few reasons. For starters, he plays a position that lends itself to a rotation, so by adding him I'm not insulting anyone on the current roster who might be benched by a new players. But mostly Largent would be a fun addition simply because he is one of the greatest Seahawks of all time and one of the best receivers of all time, and it would be fun to see what he could do in the modern NFL, where he would be considered too small and too slow, just like he was when he came into the league 39 years ago. Plus, as ESPN's Kenny Mayne pointed out on the outstanding NLF Network "A Football Life" documentary on Largent, it would be fun to see what Largent could do with the gloves receivers wear in today's game. Back when receivers played barehanded, Largent caught darn near everything thrown his way and had a reputation for having some of the best hands in the league.
My second choice? The Boz, just because I want shaving lines in the side of your hair to be cool again… OK, not really.
@Carroll's hope was for Marshawn to have a recovery time of 3-4 weeks. Is that too much to hope?"
A: The short answer is that we just don't know yet. But while we don't have a more precise timeline yet, here is what Carroll said on Monday about Lynch: "The report is that he's doing really well. He's left Philadelphia now. We'll see how it goes the next few weeks, see how he comes around. It's so much to ask him to jump back after three weeks. I don't even know how we could think that way. This is week three starting up, so we'll see how it goes… Right now it's still rehab."
Team photographer Rod Mar went with the Seahawks on their business trip to Minnesota and had this perspective of the team's exciting 38-7 win over the Vikings in Week 13.