The Seahawks hit the halfway mark in the 2019 season with a 6-2 record, marking their best first half start to a season since 2013 when they were 7-1 through eight games. Even better, the Seahawks feel like they got to 6-2 without playing their best football, meaning there's plenty of room for improvement.
"We don't quite have it yet," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said following Sunday's win in Atlanta. "We're not quite there. In one regard to be 6-2 and to be feeling that isn't so bad. We got a ways to go here, but we're going to finish. This club has finished forever and we're going to do it again and this, these next eight weeks will tell the whole story for everybody in the league. This story is not written. You guys write the stories thinking that you know, but it ain't written yet for real. So we have a chance to do our part and we're going to see if we can cause some problems for the rest of the league."
As Carroll alluded to, his teams have historically been better in the second halves of seasons than the first, and they hope to once again finish this year strong. But before the Seahawks kick off the second half of the season with Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, it's time to take a look back at the players, moments and trends that stood out from the first half of the season.
Offensive MVP: Quarterback Russell Wilson
This is a pretty obvious choice considering Russell Wilson is one of the frontrunners for league MVP midway through the season. Wilson is off to the best start of his eight-year career, throwing 17 touchdowns with just one interception. Wilson's touchdown total, touchdown-to-interception ratio and 115.5 passer rating all lead the NFL, and he's also rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
Best Offensive Player Not Named Russell Wilson: WR Tyler Lockett
It's impossible to mention Wilson's success without bringing up Tyler Lockett, who his having a fantastic season in his first year as Seattle's undisputed No. 1 receiver. Lockett started the year with only one catch in Seattle's opener, but through eight games he is on pace to have one of the best receiving seasons in Seahawks history. Lockett currently has 46 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns. The franchise record for catches in a season is 94, shared by Doug Baldwin and Bobby Engram, and the record for receiving yards 1,287, held by Largent, so Lockett is on pace to put himself in some elite company if he can keep up or improve upon his first half-pace.
Chris Carson also needs to be mentioned here. The third-year running back eclipsed 1,100 yards last year, and he is on pace for an even better season in 2019 with 659 yards and three touchdowns on 159 carries through eight games. Carson has also seen his role in the passing game increase, catching 22 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Bobby Wagner
Wagner leads the Seahawks with 75 tackles, and also has four tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two passes defensed (a total that doesn't include a crucial pass breakup on a 2-point conversion attempt last weekend). But just as important as the numbers is the leadership Wagner provides in the middle of Seattle's defense, helping the Seahawks defense function at all three levels.
Following last week's game, Wagner now has 989 career tackles, the most in franchise history, but more important to the current team than his place in team history is the fact that Wagner remains one of the best defensive players in football.
Also worth a mention on defense are defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, both of whom we'll discuss below.
Special Teams MVP: Fullback Nick Bellore
Bellore is tied for the team lead with four special teams tackles, and he also has a fumble recovery, but what makes him the choice here is his consistency and the leadership he provides on special teams where so many young players are asked to make big contributions. And speaking of those young players, rookies Ugo Amadi and Cody Barton have also been top special teams contributors so far this season.
Best Rookie: Receiver DK Metcalf
Metcalf is second on the team behind Lockett with 23 catches for 402 yards, and his four receiving touchdowns are tied for the team lead with Lockett and Will Dissly. Metcalf has been one of Seattle's top downfield threats, averaging a team-best 17.5 yards per catch, a total that ranks fifth among NFL receivers with at least 360 receiving yards.
While Metcalf is the clear choice here through eight games, safety Marquise Blair could push him for being Seattle's top rookie in the second half of the season. Blair, a second-round pick out of Utah, has started the past two games and earned praise from Carroll for his play after both performances, including Sunday's game in Atlanta in which he had a team-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble at the 1-yard line that was one of the biggest plays of the game.
Best Newcomer: Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney, who came to Seattle in a trade just before the start of the regular season, has been much more disruptive than his two sacks might indicate. The former No. 1 overall pick has four tackles for loss, an interception he returned for a touchdown, two forced fumbles, and is constantly facing double teams that help his teammates make plays. He and the Seahawks would love to see the sack numbers go up in the second half, but Clowney has already proven to be a very good addition to Seattle's defense.
Comeback Player: Tight End Will Dissly
Unfortunately Dissly will be a candidate for this honor again next year, as he landed on injured reserve for the second time in as many years, this time due to an Achilles injury. But while Dissly has missed the past two games, he was one of Seattle's best offensive players through the first six weeks of the season, catching 23 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns while also playing a big role in Seattle's running game.
Pleasant Surprise: Offensive Lineman Jamarco Jones
Jones spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to an ankle injury sustained in the preseason, and opened this year as a reserve tackle. But despite never playing guard in high school or at Ohio State, he took over there when D.J. Fluker went down with a hamstring injury in Seattle's Week 5 win over the Rams, and more than held his own against a Rams line that features two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Jones started the next two games in place of Fluker and continued to play well, showing he has a chance to be a big part of Seattle's future.
Most Improved: Cornerback Shaquill Griffin
Griffin wasn't happy with his play in 2018, so he came back this year in better shape and with a new mentality, vowing to be better in his third season. And so far, he has backed up that promise he made during OTAs, playing cornerback at an elite level. Through eight games, Griffin has been outstanding in coverage, recording a team-high eight pass breakups, including one in the end zone against Cleveland that was intercepted by Tedric Thompson.
"He just continues to be really productive," Carroll said. "When you're over there on the right side of the offense, you're going to get the ball thrown at you. He's seen plenty of targets and he continues to play very aggressively. Technique wise, he's really on it. His confidence is as high as it's been, I think at any time in the last couple years. He's ready for the tough matchups and looking forward to it and all that."
Best play offense: Wilson to Lockett for an impossible touchdown vs. the Rams.
By now you've seen the play numerous times, but go ahead and watch it again. Wilson's 13-yard touchdown pass in Seattle's Week 5 win over the Rams might have been the best play of the year, league wide, and making it all the more amazing is that it's hard to decide who made the better play, Lockett or Wilson. Wilson made a nearly impossible throw sprinting to his left before lofting a pass to the back corner of the end zone where nobody but Lockett had a chance at it, then Lockett somehow made a fully-extended catch while keeping both feet in bounds.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, there was only a 6.3 percent probability of that play being a completion, making it the most improbable completion in the past two seasons.
Best play defense: Jadeveon Clowney's pick-six at Arizona.
There are a few good choices here, including Tedric Thompson's diving pick in a Week 5 win over the Rams, and Marquise Blair's forced fumble at the 1-yard line that helped the Seahawks hang on for a win last week. But Clowney narrowly gets the nod here for a play that was something of a welcome-to-Seattle moment during a Week 4 win in Arizona. While Clowney is best known as a pass-rusher, he showed impressive hands and athleticism, reading a screen pass, reaching up to snag it with one hand, then sprinting down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Thing to improve upon in the second half: Pass rush.
While the Seahawks feel like there's a lot of potential in their defense, the results haven't been quite up to expectations so far, most notably when it comes to the pass rush. The Seahawks have only 13 sacks this season, and just three in the past four games, and while there have been some mitigating factors involved, that's an area Carroll would like to see his defense improve upon moving forward.
"We have to get that going," Carroll said. "That's probably the biggest area that we would like to improve and see if we can continue to grow there. If you look at (Clowney's) stuff, he's been active and been a part of a lot of the pressure. His numbers are good for what he's had in the past. We're pleased he's moving in the right direction. Hoping that (Jarran) Reed comes back and continues to get comfortable and get rolling. We need him to be active and be a part. As Ziggy (Ansah) gets back, Ziggy was out in practice last week to speak of—he played the game and did fine. He'll be better this week. We're just hoping that we can get better in some small areas. That's just those guys and their individual rush. We need to combine our efforts with our pressures and things. I'd like us to hit more. We've been doing a lot of stuff. We need to hit and be cleaner and execute better there to up our percentage. It's all the stuff we're working on."
Thing to continue: Turnover differential.
Seattle's Week 7 loss to Baltimore, a game in which the Ravens' defense scored twice off of turnovers in a 14-point win, highlighted just how critical the turnover battle can be in a game. And while the Seahawks found themselves on the wrong side of the turnover battle that game, they've overall been very good in the statistical category that Carroll values as much as any.
Overall this season the Seahawks are plus-seven, tied for third best in the league and just off the pace from last season when the led the NFL with a plus-15 differential, and they've been on the positive side of turnover differential in five games, neutral in one, and in the negative twice.
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.