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Seahawks Mailbag: Pass Rush, Earl Thomas’ Return & More

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The Seahawks continued their strong start to the 2019 season with a 32-28 win in Cleveland that improved their record 5-1. Up next is a home game against the Baltimore Ravens—and yes, Earl Thomas—but before we turn our focus 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. To submit questions for future mailbags, you can Tweet them at me (@johnpboyle) or submit them online at Seahawks.com/SeahawksMailbag.

Ben Kramer from Seattle asks, “Do you see the Seahawks as a Super Bowl contender, and if so what do you think they need to do to accomplish this?”

A: The Seahawks are 5-1 and Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level, so yes, the Seahawks definitely fall into the contender category. As for actually reaching the Super Bowl, a lot has to break right for any team to reach that stage, but a couple of things that could help the Seahawks in particular are A. continuing to get outstanding play from the most important position in the game; B. win enough games to win the NFC West, or better yet, get a bye; C. stay relatively healthy (this applies to every team); and D. get more consistent play from a defense that has made a lot of plays and played very well in stretches, but has yet to play at its best. One area the Seahawks are hoping to improve upon defensively is their pass rush (we’ll get more into that later in the mailbag), and if that happens Seattle’s defense has a chance to take a big step forward down the stretch.

@HolliWinters asks, “How do you think Earl Thomas will be received in Seattle this Sunday?”

A: I hope Thomas is received well when he returns to CenturyLink Field with the Ravens, and I’m guessing that for the most part he will be. Yes, there inevitably will be some boos—heck, fans boo their own teams plenty often at stadiums across the country—but my hunch is that most fans will remember not how things ended with Thomas, but what he meant to the Seahawks during his nine seasons in Seattle. For nearly a decade, Thomas embodied Pete Carroll’s “Always Compete” philosophy and was one of the best defensive players in the league and the gold standard at free safety, he helped anchor one of the best defenses in NFL history, and he was an incredibly important player on some of the best teams in franchise history, including the Seahawks’ only Super Bowl winning team. Yes, things got a bit awkward at times during Thomas’ final season with the Seahawks, but that shouldn’t overshadow what he meant to the team for nearly a decade.

@SGuchzilla, @ConradBaker20 and several others ask if the Seahawks will make a trade to add help at tight end following Will Dissly’s injury.

A: As Carroll put it on Monday, “We’re always working” at improving the roster, so sure, there’s a chance the Seahawks make a move at tight end, but it’s far from a certainty or even a likelihood. The Seahawks like what they’ve seen from Luke Willson since his return, they just promoted Jacob Hollister, who is particularly promising as a pass-catcher, off of the practice squad, and they added depth Tuesday by bringing back Tyrone Swoopes on the practice squad. So, while a move is definitely possible, the Seahawks don’t feel like they’re desperate at tight end despite losing a very good player in Dissly.

One other factor in play here is the health of left tackle Duane Brown. With Brown out against the Browns, George Fant got the start in his place, which meant Fant wasn’t available for his usual role as a sixth lineman/blocking tight end. If you’ll recall from last year, that role really got started because of Dissly’s injury, and if Brown is back quickly, as Carroll said is Seattle’s hope, then Fant also factors into the tight end depth in Dissly’s absence, particularly as a blocker.

On a related note…

Donna Pall from Port Ludlow asks where she can mail a card to Will Dissly.

A: First of all, that’s very sweet of you. Secondly, mail can be sent to 12 Seahawks Way, Renton WA 98056. Include “ATTN to” your intended recipient, because a lot of mail gets sent here.

@CostaIsAnAlien asks, “Is it time to worry about the lack of sacks? What will change with the return of Jarran Reed?”

A: The Seahawks haven’t recorded a sack in their past two games, so yes, that’s a bit concerning, but on the other hand, they still won both games while coming up with some big plays on defense. As for why the pressure hasn’t been there, Carroll has offered a couple of explanations, including the fact that Seattle’s focus on playing sound run defense at time limits pass-rush opportunities, and in the case of Sunday’s game in Cleveland, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield got the ball out very quickly.

All of that being said, as Carroll himself noted last week, “When we get into passing downs, we've got to make sure we can find the quarterback. Find a way there.”

And even though the results haven’t been there the past couple of weeks, Carroll and the Seahawks expect that will change, particularly as Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah continue to get more comfortable in a new defense.

“What I’m hoping happens is we continue to be more efficient and we run our games cleaner and sharper,” Carroll said Friday. “Get more benefit out of the fact that we’re twisting and turning and things that we’re doing. We’ve been a little bit shabby at times. We can get better at all that stuff. It takes time and the guys working together. That’s why I’ve been kind of patient with the thought that we’re going to improve as we go. Ziggy’s played a little bit and JD’s just played a little bit this year. I think those guys can get a lot better. They missed the offseason and they missed all of the camp. That stuff matters. It matters to them physically and schematically, as well as just how they feel the game coming. We should get better. I hope so. If not, we’re going to have to figure out other ways to get to the quarterback.”

As for the return of Reed, who is eligible to come back from a six-game suspension this week, that should obviously help. Reed had 10.5 sacks last year, and the presence of a good interior pass rusher can help everyone around him get more opportunities.

“There’s no question that when he’s back to full speed playing, whenever that happens—if that’s now, it would be welcomed—he’s a big factor,” Carroll said. “He’s a big factor. The spacing that happens with a guy that causes problems there, in the sets that happen to take care of him, open up areas and spaces for the other guys. We’ve been rushing with Al (Woods) as a nose tackle playing a three technique. You’ve seen us with Poona (Ford) too. Those guys are nose tackles types and that’s not their strong point. They’re run defenders and terrific run defenders at that. When we mix it up now and we get Quinton Jefferson in there and J-Reed, it’s going to be a better look for us. It’s going to be more of a problem for our opponent. Hopefully, that’ll open up things for everybody.”

@jdnlndn asks, “How many snaps should we expect Jarran Reed to play this Sunday against the Ravens?”

A: It’s far too early to take a guess at this, and in all likelihood, Seattle’s coaches don’t know the answer to this one yet either. Suspended players aren’t allowed to be around the team at all during their suspension, so the Seahawks won’t know how ready Reed is until they see him in practice this week. Reed has worked hard during his time away, but as players will always tell you, you can only get in football shape by playing football. Assuming Reed does play on Sunday it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be on something of a pitch count, but it’s too soon to guess at what that will look like.

Sticking with the defensive line…

Nolan Wang from Sammamish asks, “Will L.J. Collier have a big role in the future?”

A: While Collier isn’t off to the start he or the Seahawks would have liked, it’s way too early to start worrying about his long-term future. Yes, a first-round pick would ideally be playing a bigger role early in his career, but it’s worth remembering that Collier missed almost all of training camp and all four preseason games with an ankle injury. With the Seahawks adding Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, and with Quinton Jefferson playing so well this season, it hasn’t been easy for Collier to get a ton of playing time so far—he has been inactive for three of six games—but Carroll expects that to change as the season goes along.

“I think that L.J. is going to show you here now in the next few weeks that he’s going to be able to figure into what’s happening,” Carroll said last week. “It’s just taken him awhile. He missed so much football.”

@shawnaaaaaaaaaa asks, “Whose idea was the ‘Bye Bye Bye’ celebration?” @Shockfanatic09 also asks about the NSYNC inspired dance.

A: Seahawks receiver Jaron Brown, whose touchdown led to the now famous NSYNC celebration, was on the Jim Rome Show Tuesday, and said the celebration was Tyler Lockett and David Moore’s idea.

@The_Twelf asks, “Pete Carroll said he wasn’t worried about the Browns’ opening kickoff return ‘because of what happened on our coverage.’ Could you translate that?”

A: Good catch on that one. What Carroll was saying there was that he wasn’t overly concerned with the long return because he didn’t think it should have been allowed had a block in the back been called on a block that sent Travis Homer flying out of the play. It was basically Carroll's way of defending his coverage team without directly criticizing the officiating.

Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.

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