Happy New Year, everyone. With a Seahawks playoff game coming up in Dallas on Saturday, it's time, for the first time in 2019, to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
@ArrDJay asks, "What was the turning point for this team?"
A: Two moments stand out to me when it comes to the Seahawks' ability to turn things around after 0-2 and 4-5 starts, both involving the offense. After struggling to get the running game going in back-to-back losses to open the season, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had a long meeting after their Monday night loss in Chicago, one that was key to the Seahawks establishing their identity and becoming the league's No. 1 rushing offense.
"We talked about the running game, getting that going," Carroll said. "We had to let some things go to do that. We had to leave some things off the list that we had been working on to kind of get them out of the way so there wouldn't be distractions to us as we were pecking our way through developing the run game. The conversation started after Week 1. We adjusted from Week 1 to Week 2—it didn't look like it—and that's when we really had to make a shift. It was real clear to us that we needed to do something, so we did."
Another turning point of sorts came in a big road win over the Carolina Panthers that was the second of four straight wins in the second half of the season. Up to that point, the Seahawks had been running the ball very well every week to key their offensive success, but against a good Carolina front-seven that was committed to stopping the run, the Seahawks managed only 75 rushing yards. They won anyway thanks to 339 passing yards and two touchdowns from Russell Wilson, and 100-yard receiving games by Tyler Lockett and David Moore.
"Honestly Carolina was big just because we were running the ball so well (before that game)," Schottenheimer said. "But then to go and play a really good defense, to have them challenge us in the running game, and to have us be able to go and make those plays. I'm not going to say I was surprised by it, but that's kind of when I was like OK, we're really pretty hard to defend because we're going to run the ball well and then if you want to stop that or you're going to load up the box, we've got weapons that can do that. That's probably the game I look back on where I was like 'we're pretty difficult to deal with.'"
@DavCarroll42 asks, "How do the Seahawks feel about their rookie class, and what are some of the things Shaquem Griffin needs to work on to see more playing time in 2019?"
A: Overall the Seahawks like what they've gotten from this class, and more significantly, they think this group can make a big difference for years to come. Already this draft class has provided a starting cornerback (Tre Flowers), a Pro Bowl punter (Michael Dickson), a starting tight end who unfortunately ended up on injured reserve (Will Dissly), a running back who has shown a ton of big-play potential (Rashaad Penny), and a defensive end who has contributed three sacks, two of which forced fumbles (Jacob Martin). Additionally, third-round pick Rasheem Green has contributed to the defensive line rotation, while Shaquem Griffin has been a key contributor on special teams. And that doesn't included undrafted rookie Poona Ford, who came on late in the season as a big part of the defensive line rotation.
"I think it's a terrific class," Carroll said. "They've improved as the season has gone on, which we always hope for, they're impacting more. I think it's a great group for the future too, they're going to be really competitive. Their attitudes are great. From the start of it, we thought we had a really good group attitude wise, and their focus was really on it. So it has been a really positive group. I think we're going to notice this for years to come."
As for Griffin, despite not playing much on defense since starting the season opener, the Seahawks really like the development he has shown in practice—and it's worth noting he did see some playing time in place of K.J. Wright two weeks ago when the Seahawks wanted to give Wright a break. And for Griffin, there was always going to be a learning curve since he played mostly on the line of scrimmage at UCF, but is playing as an off-ball linebacker for the Seahawks.
@kevinmc10 asks, "What will the offensive line look like after hearing from Pete Carroll?"
A: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gave some injury updates on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday morning, including on Seattle's two starting guards. D.J. Fluker, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, is expected to practice this week and be ready to go Saturday. That will allow Germain Ifedi, who started at guard in place of Fluker Sunday, to move back to right tackle, Carroll said. That also means George Fant, who started at right tackle the last two weeks, will go back to his role as a sixth lineman/big tight end.
"Fluke will practice all week and is ready to go," Carroll said. "He could have played this game, he was chirping to start and all that, but we thought because he didn't practice last week that it would be better to save him one more time. So he'll be ready to practice all week long. He's back. That would move Ifedi back to tackle, and Fant back to tight end in all those special situations."
The status of left guard J.R. Sweezy is less certain, Carroll said. Sweezy, who left Seattle's Week 16 game win over Kansas City with a foot injury, will likely be a game-day decision, Carroll said.
@garyrhansen asks, "How can you allow six sacks and expect to win?"
A: Obviously giving up six sacks is far from ideal, and the Seahawks will do everything they can to clean that up this week. But it's worth pointing out that, as outlined above, the Seahawks were dealing with some injuries last weekend and should be healthier on their line this week, and also that the Cardinals, who are among the NFL leaders in sacks, have a history of giving the Seahawks trouble with their pass rush. Getting something close to their regular line back on the field should make a difference and get Seattle back to looking like the offense that didn't allow more than three sacks in any of the previous six games.
"We had trouble with our pass protection today. It was obvious," Carroll after the game. "… We had some troubles with line calls, line stunts and things that they were doing, couple pressures we didn't identify well and you could just see the mixing and matching caught us a little bit today against a team that makes it really hard on you, so it was a bad mix."
@Evan_L05 asks, "What was your favorite touchdown celebration this season?"
A: Do I have to pick just one? One of the best subplots to this season was how much fun the team had overall, and in particular how much fun the receivers had celebrating touchdown catches. If forced to pick a favorite, I'd go with the recreation of "The Tip," but there are a lot of good ones to choose from, so there's really not wrong answer.
@SeahawksFan2019 asks, "What's the problem with special teams and these blocked punts?"
A: Carroll was asked about that on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday, and said, "We had problems," before noting that sometimes when core special teams players start playing more on offense or defense, it can hurt their play on special teams, pointing to a block Delano Hill "has made a million times" that didn't go so well on Sunday. Hill, of course, has started the last two games and played every snap as Seattle's strong safety with Tedric Thompson out.
"That tends to happen when guys get their focus on playing every down, so we have to do some things about that and make sure we don't' get guys in that situation," Carroll said. "I'm not going to spend a bunch of time on that, because they were just individual things that happened that really could have lost the game for us. The lessons are great. We'll clean this up and make sure it's not a factor."
Carroll also said his team's special teams players requested to have an extra meeting Monday morning so they could make sure they make the necessary adjustment this week.
@calballs says, "Not a question, but Chris Carson is a beast."
A: Yes, yes he is. Despite missing two games, Carson still became the Seahawks' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014, running for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns on 247 carries. Carson finished the year particularly strong, going over 100 yards in each of Seattle's final three games while scoring four touchdowns. With Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny and Russell Wilson all chipping in, the Seahawks finished the year with a league-high 2,560 rushing yards, the third highest total in franchise history behind the 2014 and 2012 teams.