The Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West following their Week 8 win over Cleveland, and next up is another tough challenge, a road game against the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens. But before we turn our attention to this weekend's game, let's first dig into the mailbag and answer some 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. And remember, the mailbag is always open for submission at Seahawks.com/mailbag.
Alexander from Lake Placid asks, "What are realistic expectations for the Seahawks this year?"
A: After a 5-2 start that has the Seahawks in first place, expectations are high both internally and outside of the organization, but that was also the case heading into the season with the Seahawks feeling like they were an ascending team coming off a playoff season despite some significant roster turnover last year.
It's important to note, however, that you won't suddenly hear Pete Carroll talking about the Super Bowl as a goal. For him, the goal every year is to own the division, the thinking being if you do that, A. you're in the playoffs, and B. you start the playoffs at home and, depending on how teams in the rest of the conference do, you could end up with multiple home games.
Winning the NFC West won't be easy, of course—the 49ers are still a really good team despite their recent struggles—but the Seahawks believe they have what it takes to go from a wild card team a year ago to legitimate contender in the NFC in 2023. That's especially true given the leaps the Seahawks have made on defense this season, turning what was a concern in 2022 into a team strength this year. The offense has plenty of firepower to be an elite unit if they can clean up the recent turnover issues, and special teams play has been strong year after year. If the Seahawks put all of that together as the season progresses, they should be in the mix come January.
And if there was any doubt that the Seahawks see themselves as contenders, look no further than Tuesday's decision to trade a second-round pick, as well as a 2025 fifth-rounder, for Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
@DavidWSlater asks, "With the acquisition of Leonard Williams, where does he fit in with the other interior D-linemen?"
A: The Seahawks, like most teams, want to rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh, so adding Williams doesn't necessarily mean a reduced role for any of Seattle's front-line linemen like Jarran Reed, Dre'Mont Jones and Mario Edwards Jr. If anything, if could affect the playing time of some of the depth players behind that trio, and it could also allow some of the starters to take a few more plays off a game, which can payoff down the road.
While the Seahawks are a 3-4 team in their base defense, they've played so much nickel this year that their usual starting defense has featured just two down linemen, Reed and Jones, flanked by outside linebacker Boye Mafe and, with Uchenna Nwosu now on IR, Darrell Taylor. Whether Williams moves in front of one of those two in the starting lineup probably isn't that consequential, as all three will play a lot.
On a related note…
@Philipp_Swl asks, "Why give up a second-round pick for a guy in the last year of his contract? What is the plan this offseason?"
A: Carroll was asked about this on Monday, and pointed to the fact that, while a second-round pick is significant compensation, game-changing interior linemen are very hard to get, and thanks to Seattle's sustained success, they're rarely in a position to draft a player like Williams, who was the No. 6 overall pick in 2015.
"That's the choice—how you make that choice and when you do it, and how do you gauge the pluses and the minuses?" Carroll said. "This was one of those situations where we get a rare player, and he's young enough—hopefully we can have a chance to get him back again—and could be a big factor. This kind of a choice reminds us that we don't have these options very often to get a player like that. So when you get player who is that obviously at the head of his class, we like to take a shot at it when we can. We're battling. I hope it works out right, we'll find out. We've had some really good No. 2s the last few years, so we look at it like, 'OK, that could be that guy, it could be that guy.' So we know we're giving up something."
Carroll also said the Seahawks hope to keep Williams beyond this year, which obviously is a factor in making a trade. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed, but the Seahawks will hope that Williams likes his time here over the second half of the season, and that they like what they see in him, and that the two sides can get something done. And by having Williams on the team, they can always work on an extension before he becomes a free agent.
There are also salary cap ramifications to consider. The Seahawks were tight enough on the cap that it would have been challenging to take on Williams' contract as it was, so the Giants' willingness to restructure his deal before the trade and take on most of the remaining money was no doubt a factor in the draft pick compensation they got back.
Lastly, as Carroll noted Monday, it helps to have an extra third round pick when deciding to part with what the Seahawks hope/expect to be a late second-rounder. Seattle added a third-round pick in a trade with Denver, which will be the lesser of Denver's original third or the third they got from New Orleans in a previous trade, so even though the Seahawks don't have their second-round, they do still have two Day 2 picks, one of which could be relatively early in the third round.
@SamiOnTap asks, "Will the Seahawks wear the white throwbacks soon?" And @enzo_sco asks, "Since we are wearing throwbacks away vs. Dallas, do you think maybe we go white on silver?"
A: As far as I know, white throwbacks are not in the plans for this year, as only the blue ones were made/approved, etc. Teams are only allowed four different jerseys in a season, and my understanding is that adding a white throwback would count as yet another jersey in addition to the four they currently have (usual blue and white, action green and throwback blue), so to add a throwback white you'd have to get rid of something else.
As for the Dallas game, the Seahawks will again wear the royal blue throwback because Dallas, as they regularly do, will wear white at home.
@CelestialMosh asks, "Would it be a good idea to use Jaxon Smith-Njigba as a punt or kickoff returner like they did with Percey Harvin?"
A: Smith-Njigba did return punts in college some, and was in the mix at that spot in camp prior to injuring his wrist. He could still factor in there later, but my hunch is after the injury the Seahawks wanted to protect his wrist, first and foremost, and also let him focus all of his attention of getting up to speed at receiver after missing some time.
As for kick returns, he doesn't have history in that role, at least not at the college level, and kick returns are a particularly physical play so the Seahawks might not want to subject their No. 3 receiver to those type of hits.
Most notably in this particular conversation about returners is that, aside from one fumble, DeeJay Dallas has done a really good job this season in both roles. Dee Eskridge is also back, and handled kick returns last week, a job he held last season before suffering a season-ending hand injury in Munich. If a need came up, the Seahawks would trust Smith-Njigba to return punts, but as of now, they like what they have in Dallas in that role, and would probably prefer to let the rookie continue to grow as a weapon in the offense.
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seahawks' Week 8 win over the Cleveland Browns at Lumen Field. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.