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Seahawks Mailbag: Defensive Turnaround, K.J. Wright's Future & More

You have Seahawks questions; we have answers. 

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The Seahawks beat the Jets on Sunday to secure a ninth consecutive winning season, and are now on the verge of clinching an eighth playoff berth in those past nine years, and ninth in 11 seasons under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Up next is trip east to face the NFC East-leading Washington Football Team, but before we turn our attention to that game, it's time once again to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.

Vince Le from Austin, Texas asks, "Is the defense really turning a corner or is it more the struggling offenses they've faced?"

A: After allowing 30.4 points per game through their first eight games, the Seahawks are giving up just 16.2 per game over the past five, an obvious example of how much they've improved on defense. And while it's true that some of Seattle's recent opponents aren't as strong offensively as some of the teams the Seahawks played earlier, I do think we've seen enough sustained strong play from the defense for it to be more than just the result of weaker opponents. For all of their struggles, the Jets had scored 27 or more in three of their previous four games before the Seahawks limited them to 3 points, and no matter who you're playing, holding three straight opponents under 300 total yards, as the Seahawks have done, is a feat in today's NFL.

Perhaps the most concrete example of Seattle's defensive improvement is the difference between the two games against Arizona. After giving up 519 yards and 37 points in a Week 7 loss to the Cardinals, the Seahawks gave up 21 points and 314 points in a Week 11 victory.

The Seahawks defense has improved for a number of reasons, not the least of which is getting healthier in the secondary with Jamal Adams and Shaquill Griffin both returning from injuries. The improved pass rush, which includes the play of midseason trade acquisition Carlos Dunlap II, has been a huge factor in the improvement, with the Seahawks going from nine sacks in their first six games to 27 in their past seven games.

Will every game down the stretch look as dominant for Seattle's defense as Sunday's win over the Jets? Doubtful, but the Seahawks will go into the final three weeks of the regular season and the postseason feeling pretty good about their defense.

@consato_sambora asks, "Would a deep playoff run be contingent on running the ball 30 plus times a game?"

A: Could the Seahawks run the ball 30-plus times a game while on a playoff run? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Hardly. Five of the Seahawks nine wins this season have seen them run the ball fewer than 30, and if Russell Wilson is playing like he did last week, and like he did in the first half of the season, then the Seahawks can win on any given Sunday without running the ball a lot.

The key to this discussion is understanding what Pete Carroll means when he talks about balance. Carroll doesn't need to see his team run the ball 30 times every week; he wants an offense that's capable of doing that and running the ball successfully if the game calls for it, be it because of an opposing defense that is good at taking away the pass game or because of inclement weather that makes it difficult to throw the ball. Even as the Seahawks have run the ball more of late, they're still more pass-happy on early downs than they have been in the past, and in some cases, including last week's game, the rushing attempt numbers got inflated by a lot of runs late in the game with the Seahawks nursing a big lead.

So no, the Seahawks don't need to run the ball a bunch to win in the playoffs, but they want to have an offense capable of doing that should they need to call on it, and with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde leading the way, and with Rashaad Penny hopefully back soon, they'll feel good about that running game when they do need to turn to it.

Tanner Brown from Florence, Montana asks, "What are the Seahawks playoff chances?" And on similar note, @ortizang12 asks, "What's the highest seed the Seahawks can still get? And what needs to happen besides winning out?"

A: The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with one more win, but of course they want to finish strong to win the NFC West—they currently trail the Rams, who are also 9-4, because the Rams hold the tiebreaker having beat Seattle earlier this year. In terms of seeding, everything is still in play for the Seahawks other than the No. 4 seed (the NFC East winner is locked into that spot at this point). The Seahawks are a game behind both Green Bay and New Orleans for the top seeds, so with three games left, the Seahawks aren't in complete control of their destiny for the top two seeds, but could move up if they win out and get some help. For now, however, the Seahawks' focus will be strictly on taking care of their own business, then they'll figure out what it all means when Week 17 comes around.

@Commish_Man asks, "What is K.J. Wright's contract situation?"

A: Wright signed a two-year deal in 2019, so he is set to become a free agent, and this question is well-timed, because both Wright and Carroll were asked about his future this week. When Wright signed that two-year deal, he said his goal was to play 10 seasons, then reevaluate things, and this is indeed Year 10. The second year on Wright's deal wasn't guaranteed and there was plenty of speculation, especially after Wright had surgery in the offseason and after Seattle drafted Jordyn Brooks in the first round, that he might not be back this year, but Wright not only stuck around and kept his starting job, he's having one of the best seasons of his career, all while making a position switch in season.

And the way Wright is playing, it's going to be up to him whether or not he's playing in 2021 and beyond.

"That's a tough question," Wright said with a laugh when asked about his plans beyond 2020. "I got my goal (of playing 10 seasons), I'm playing really good. When this (is over) I'm going to sit back and see what's next for me, but as of now I'm looking really good. I'm pretty happy that Year 10 is going the right direction."

Said Carroll, "I don't know who's talking about his last year. He and I don't talk about last years. He's playing terrific football… He's looking pretty good right now. I don't know why we'd be taking about anything but him playing football for as long as he wants to."

@alexterr24, noting the use of a gif from the TV show Scrubs in this week's mailbag tweet, asks, "What's your favorite episode?"

A: Man, this a tough one when we're talking about a eight-season series (like most Scrubs fans I choose not to acknowledge the ninth season) that's so full of funny and moving moments.

What Scrubs did better than just about any comedy was the way it managed to be both hilarious and heart-wrenching, often in the same episode. So while I can't pick just one, some of my favorites are those episodes that were both touching and funny, in no particular order: the two-parter of "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Hero," "My Cake," "My Long Goodbye," "My Last Words," and "My Screw Up." "My Finale" is also great, in no small part because it is so hard for a long-running series to get its ending right, and they nailed it (again, we're pretending Season 9 didn't happen).

"My Musical" was also a lot of fun, as was "My Way Home," a Wizard of Oz homage that ends with a beautiful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by the great Sam Lloyd, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year.

Oh, and if you're a fellow Scrubs fan and not listening to it already, be sure to check out the "Fake Doctors, Real Friends" podcast Zach Braff and Donald Faison have been doing this year, it's a fantastic light-hearted listen that's a perfect distraction in this crazy year.

@SeattleSoles asks, "Will Josh Gordon or David Moore be the better option as WR3?"

A: In a lot of ways the answer here could depend on just how ready Gordon is when he returns to practice next week. Gordon has been working hard on his own during his suspension to stay in shape, and has been able to work with Seahawks athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff the past two weeks, but next week will be his first practice in a year, so he'll have to get game-ready in a hurry. Gordon is obviously an exceptionally talented player, and after joining the Seahawks last year he was the No. 3 receiver behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf in terms of playing time in four of his five games, so obviously he could step into that role again. Moore, however, is having a very good season and is a bigger part of the offense than he was last year, so it's hardly a given that Gordon would just come in and take over that role right away.

Either way, it'll be a nice addition for the Seahawks to add one more playmaker to the passing game as they prepare for their final two regular season games.

@antsnow_ asks, "How do we stop Chase Young?"

A: Having an elite left tackle like Duane Brown is certainly a good place to start, but like a lot of good pass rushers, Young moves around, so it'll take a team effort to slow down the No. 2 pick in this year's draft. And for as good as young is, what makes Sunday's matchup with Washington Football Team so tough for Seattle's offense is the talent Washington has all over the field on defense, including Montez Sweat, who leads the team with 7.0 sacks. So yeah, Brown will have a big role in trying to slow down the rookie, but even if he can, it's going to take good blocking from everyone, as well as Russell Wilson getting rid of the ball quickly at times, for the Seahawks to keep that Washington pass rush in check.

Anthony Pisut from Des Moines, Iowa, asks "When will Rashaad Penny be back?"

A: Penny, who is coming back from a torn ACL sustained just over a year ago, returned to practice last week and Carroll was raving about how the running back looked in his first week back. Carroll stopped short of saying Penny will for sure play this week, but he did say that Penny is coming into the week practicing as if he's playing, then they'll evaluate things later in the week.

Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 14 game vs. the New York Jets. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.

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