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Seahawks Mailbag: Bobby Wagner’s DPOY Chances, George Fant Catching Passes & More

After a fourth straight win, the Seahawks are 8-5 with three games remaining, and are in great shape to return to the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Next up for the Seahawks is a trip to Santa Clara to face the 49ers in their last road game of the regular season, but before things get cranked up for a big Week 15 NFC West contest, first it’s time to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to ask a question this week, and apologies if I couldn’t get to yours this time around.

@JacobDonker asks, “I think it’s insane that Bobby Wagner hasn’t won DPOY yet? Will this finally be his year?”

A: Bobby Wagner has had a great career, quite possibly a Hall of Fame one if he stacks up a couple more All-Pro and Pro-Bowl caliber seasons, so yes, it’s reasonable to suggest that he could have and maybe should have been named Defensive Player of the Year at some point in his career. In 2016, Wagner had a Seahawks record 167 tackles along with 4.5 sacks, but the award went to then Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack. Last year Wagner might have been even better until a hamstring injury slowed him down late in the season and knocked him out of serious consideration, and the award went to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is the front runner again this year.

This season Wagner has 108 tackles with three games still to play, marking the seventh time in as many seasons he has gone over the 100-tackle mark, something no player in franchise history has accomplished before. His 11 passes defensed are a career high, he has an interception that he returned for a touchdown, and has forced two fumbles all while providing leadership for a defense that changed drastically around him in the offseason. By any measure, Wagner is having one of the best years of his career, and I’d argue few defensive players if any are playing better than him right now or mean more to their respective teams.

Having said all of that, no, I don’t think this will be the year for Wagner, and I say that not as commentary on his play or worthiness of such an award, but because of how voters tend to view that award. Dating back to 2011, six of the past seven winners, including four in a row, have been defensive linemen or pass-rushing linebackers—in other words, players who get sacks. And look, it’s easy to see why voters reward sacks, they’re hugely impactful plays and they’re the main reason why premier edge rushers are among the league’s highest-paid players, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that Wagner doesn’t have as much value making plays all over the field while recording 140 or so tackles as a player who gets 15 sacks in a season. But with Donald and Mack having monster seasons, I unfortunately don’t see this as the season when the voting trends change.

It will end up being a bit curious in retrospect if the entire Pete Carroll era, which produced some historically great and championship winning defenses, and in all likelihood a few Hall of Famers, never produces a single Defensive Player of the Year.

@vgsrini asks, “How did Jordan Simmons fair on the offensive line?”

A: Jordan Simmons, who made his second start of the year at right guard in place of an injured D.J. Fluker, was once again a part of a very productive day of running the football. In fact, the Seahawks’ biggest two rushing totals of the year—273 yards against the Rams and 214 yards Monday night—came with Simmons on the field.

Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday that Simmons “did good again, he did a good job for us.” Carroll also noted that Simmons could have a bright future, especially given his lack of experience thanks to an injury-plagued college career.

There’s a lot of future in this kid, he’s just getting started,” Carroll said on the Brock and Salk Show… “He was hurt his entire college career, he only played a handful of games. He had a knee that was a problem, got operated on and all that. He just never got really going. He’s played as much football here as he’s probably played in his college career. So he’s just an untapped source kind of and the great thing is he’s healthy, his legs are fine, his body’s fine. He just couldn’t get healthy when there. He’s still just a young pup. He was nervous, you know, going in and the whole thing, this Monday night game, ‘Here I go,’ you know. He’s just getting rolling, so he’s a really good guy for the future.”

@HOLLABLVCK asks, “The Seahawks seem to be finding unique ways to win, what do you think has fueled this new flexibility in their game both on offense and defense?”

A: This is a really good point, and something a few players talked about Monday night after the game. By beating the Vikings in a defensive struggle, the Seahawks showed they can win in all sorts of different ways, having already won some high-scoring shootouts (at Carolina) or late-game comebacks (vs. Green Bay and at Carolina) or while taking the lead then taking control of the game.

I would contend, however, that this is less a case of new flexibility as it is the Seahawks getting back to the way Carroll always wants his teams to play. Even the best offensive teams will struggle to score points sometimes, and even the best defenses will sometimes give up points against offenses that are tough matchups, so having the type of team that can win in a number of different styles can be really important come playoff time.

“It’s good, especially for the young guys, to see that we can win however,” Wagner said after the game. “Whether it’s a defensive game, offensive game, special teams game, it’s always good to have these kinds of wins throughout the season, because you can use it in the playoffs.”

Added quarterback Russell Wilson, “If you want to be a championship team, you have to find ways to win even when it doesn’t look pretty.”

@sp\da\man asks, “Best non-Pearl Jam Stone Gossard project/band? Mother Love Bone, Green River, Brad or Temple of the Dog?

A: Asking anything remotely Pearl Jam related is a very good way to get your question answered, so of course I’ll take a swing a this one. For me, the choice comes down to Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog, and it’s an impossibly difficult one to make. Mother Love Bone spent a little more time together and produced more music, while Temple of the Dog was put together for one tribute album after Mother Love Bone front man Andy Wood died. So on one hand, I could argue that Mother Love Bone had the stronger, albeit still too brief, body of work. Then again, Temple of the Dog has Chris Cornell, one of the great voices in rock history. If I have to choose, I might lean Temple of the Dog if only because I was lucky enough to see them when they got back together for a tour that stopped at the Paramount two years ago. Or, we can just call it a tie and watch Temple of the Dog cover a Mother Love Bone song.

@garfieldup asks, “Why are the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the Seahawks in the standings when they already lost to Seattle?”

A: You’re right in observing that the Cowboys and Seahawks have the same 8-5 record, and that the Seahawks do have the head-to-head advantage, but as things stand now, the Seahawks can’t pass the Cowboys because in the NFL playoff structure, division champions are always the top four seeds, while the two wild card teams are the No. 5 and 6 seeds, even if they have better records than one or more of the division champs.

And before any Seahawks fans get worked up about potentially playing a road playoff game against a team with a worse record, let’s not forget 2010 when the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks got to host the 11-5 Saints in a playoff game Seattle would go on to win, thanks in part to a fairly memorable play by Marshawn Lynch.

@kmasterman asks, “Can we all just acknowledge that the Seahawks are going to win the NFC Championship on a Dickson to Fant touchdown pass?”

A: I’m all for this, and not just because of the obvious implications of what that would mean for the Seahawks’ season. Linemen catching the football is a great thing, and punters throwing it is also great. Combining the two is, well, Fant-astic (sorry for that). And as far-fetched as this suggestion might sound, the Seahawks did have a punter throw a touchdown to a lineman in an NFC Championship Game once already, with Jon Ryan connecting with Garry Gilliam to spark a comeback win over Green Bay.

And now that Fant showed off his hands in Monday’s game, Carroll joked on 710 ESPN Seattle that the Seahawks are ready to “cut him loose now. He’s going to be a primary target.”

@MadisonWhitcra1 asks, “What kind of gum is Pete Carroll always chewing?”

A: Oddly enough, this question has come up in at least a couple of previous mailbags, so apparently there’s a lot of interest in Carroll’s gum. Carroll’s gum of choice is Bubble Yum, and he’ll go through roughly 15 pieces of it per game according to Ben Malcolmson, the special assistant to the head coach. (Yes, I actually inquired about this a while back, all in the name of mailbag accuracy).

Game action photos from the Seahawks' 21-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season.

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