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Seahawks Mailbag: O-Line Improvement, Tre Flowers, Michael Dickson Running & More

The Seahawks were victorious again in Week 8, beating the Detroit Lions to improve to 4-3. Next up is the 5-2 Los Angeles Chargers, but before we dig into that game, it’s time once again 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.

@officialkoch asks, “What has changed about our O-Line for it to improve so much?”

A: The improvement of Seattle’s offensive line has played a big role in the team turning things around since an 0-2 start, and it also bodes very well for the rest of the season. If the Seahawks can run the ball well and protect Russell Wilson, they have a chance to win a lot of games.

As for what has changed, I dove into that in a story for Seahawks.com last weekend, but the short answer is that a lot of things have combined to lead to the improvement. New offensive line coach Mike Solari has definitely made a difference, as have free agent additions D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy. Duane Brown and Justin Britt continue to play very well while also providing leadership, and third-year tackle Germain Ifedi has taken a big step forward this year.

“(The running game) is something offensive linemen pride ourselves on, so it’s a great thing to see, and we’re just trying to keep it going,” Brown said last week. “And we’re blocking for a generational talent in Russell Wilson, so we also really take pride in keeping him clean, allowing him to make plays. When you’re able to run the ball and also give him time, we feel like we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

On a related note…

@walkngirl asks, “I have noticed that Germain Ifedi has stopped getting penalties called against him? Has D.J. Fluker been a good influence on him?”

A: You’re right, Ifedi, who led the NFL in penalties last year, has cut way back in that department, and his overall play has improved, just one of many reasons the line is playing so well.

As for what went into Ifedi’s improvement, I think you’re on to something that having an experienced veteran next to him like Fluker has helped, but a lot of it is also just the growth that comes with experience when playing such a difficult position. Also helping Ifedi has been Brown, who while with the Texans got to know Ifedi, a Houston native playing at Texas A&M. Since arriving in Seattle last year, Brown has taken Ifedi under his wing.

“He’s one of those guys you just know is ready to give knowledge and really help you grow,” Ifedi said. “He knows his job is not just, ‘I’m coming here to lead by example, do my job and leave.’ He’s going to stay here—we sat here two hours after practice talking, talking about ball, other things in life. He’s always there for you, 12 at night I text him, he texts right back. He has been great for our offensive line, and he’s helped steady us and help us get continuously better since he got here.”

@gnarlyraddad asks, “What do you think about Tre Flowers?”

A: It’s early still in Flowers’ career, but I’ve so far been very impressed with the rookie out of Oklahoma State. Flowers, a fifth-round pick, played safety in college, so the assumption by most was that he would take some time to develop, but instead he opened the season as a starter and has played very well. Most importantly for a Pete Carroll-coached cornerback, Flowers isn’t getting beat deep, but he’s also making plays, helping create three turnovers, one with a forced fumble and two with pass breakups that were intercepted by teammates.

“He’s still getting going,” Carroll said. “It’s kind of gone like I had hoped it would go, that he would show that he was physical, that he would belong and he could fit in physically and mentally. He’s done that. He’s shown us that. He’s been very active. He’s forced three turnovers that are really legit plays that they were going to have the ball and then he knocked it around and we got the ball back. Those are big plays to make. Kind of different than interceptions, he’s forced three big plays. He’s got a lot to learn still. He’s still growing and we’re going to see. You take a look at the quarterbacks we’re going to see in the next couple of weeks, next couple of months really, it’s going to be a great test for all of us and we’ll know later where he is.”

@RossFrieser notes that this team reminds him of the 2012-2013 teams and says, “Is there a similar feeling inside the building?”

A: I don’t think anyone is ready to compare this team to the Super Bowl-winning 2013 team, which came into the year considered Super Bowl contenders after narrowly missing an NFC championship game berth the year before. But 2012 is a good comparison, and one that has been made by players, including Russell Wilson, who was a rookie on that team that surprised a lot of people by going 11-5 to make the playoffs.

“I really compare it to 2012,” Wilson said following Sunday’s win in Detroit. “It really reminds me of that year when nobody was really thinking anything. We were just young guys, great players, and veterans who played great. There’s nothing we can’t do, that’s what we believe.

“It has been exciting to see what we’re doing, and you’ve got to enjoy the process. It’s a long journey, and got a lot more to do. And so we’re keeping our heads down and trying to be great every game.”

@Listen_Stupid asks, “What’s going on with Nazair Jones? Why isn’t he playing?”

A: The Seahawks still like Jones, but with the roster pretty healthy, some players are going to be inactive on game day, and Jones has been the odd man out a few times this year, which mostly is about the players ahead of him performing well. Carroll was asked about Jones on Monday and said, ““It’s a little bit about game plan. Naz has been doing a nice job, but the style of play that we’re facing and who they’re up against and things like that. Making those kind of game plan determinations, that really is up each week. We talk our way through that and see which way we want to go with all of our guys that are in that position.”

@IdahoPuma asks, “Does Michael Dickson have a run/punt option (RPO)? LOL, I actually thought he was running to get more room to punt rugby style until he crossed the line of scrimmage.”

A: First off, I like the idea of RPO standing for run/punt option instead of run/pass option, so well played. And to answer the question, Carroll and Dickson both explained that Carroll did bring up the idea of running the ball if things opened up for Dickson during a conversation in London, but of course Carroll didn’t envision Dickson doing so out of his own end zone. In that particular instance, Dickson was supposed to just run out a little bit of time, then take a safety. But the fact that Carroll encouraged a rookie punter to take a risk, and that he was so excited about it despite the high level of risk involved when Dickson did it Sunday, helps illustrate something about Carroll’s coaching style.

“It was a great play, really that was a fantastic play,” Carroll said Monday. “Players and athletes get chances sometimes where they’ve got to go or they don’t, and he showed you his mentality to a certain extent. And I’d like to think he showed you our mentality too that we trust our guys. As you work hard and you work at it, you’re going to get faced with opportunities, and I’d like our guys to be able to improvise well and find ways to make special things happen. We’re always looking for guys who have special qualities, and part of that is guys who have the background and the courage and the faculties to make those kinds of decisions and make them right. It was one of those, you didn’t know for a while if it was going to work out, right in the midst of it it seemed like it was in slow motion, but he turned it into a very positive play and really put a game away for us. So it was really nicely done.”

@tompage asks, “With the release of Brandon Marshall, who will benefit the most from increased playing time?” @BrainsRefried also asks about implications of Tuesday’s roster move.

A: For the most part we had already seen the change taking place, with Marshall going from a starter the first few weeks to barely playing the last couple of games, including just two snaps against the Lions. The Seahawks liked what Marshall brought to the team, but in the spirit of competition, David Moore was given an opportunity and he seized it. With Marshall barely playing, the Seahawks can add a younger player who presumably will be able to help on special teams, and at the same time Marshall gets a chance to be a free agent and see if he can find somewhere to finish the year where he’ll have a bigger role.

@rebeloigor and @seahawker51 ask about Rashaad Penny’s role with Chris Carson and Mike Davis getting most of the work last week.

A: While Penny didn’t get a touch in last week’s game other than the opening kick return, I still think he has a chance to have a big role at some point this season. Yes, Carson and Davis are both playing well and so far have gotten most of the touches, but Penny did have nine carries for 43 yards and two catches for 27 yards in Seattle’s previous game. Depending on matchups, as well as health at running back, there will be games in which Penny is an important part of the offense going forward. But yes, it is hard to get three or four backs involved in one game, and right now the Seahawks have a lot of running backs playing a high level, which is a pretty nice problem to have.

Starting with Sunday's game against the Lions in Detroit, the Seahawks will wear a patch on their jerseys honoring club owner Paul G. Allen, who died last week from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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