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Seahawks Mailbag: Strength Of The NFC West, Injury Replacements & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers. 

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The Seahawks are 2-0 after Sunday night's wild win over the New England Patriots, and up next is a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys, who will come to Seattle fresh off of their own thrilling win, having overcome a big deficit to beat the Falcons in Week 2. But before we turn our attention fully to Seattle's Week 3 matchup, 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 around to yours this time around.

@DavidWilson17 asks, "Considering how good the NFC West is, could every team in the division make the playoffs?"

A: Heading into the season, a lot of people believed that the NFC West would be the league's best division, and nothing we've seen through two weeks has changed that opinion. There are currently five 2-0 teams in the NFC, and three of them reside in the West, while the defending NFC Champion 49ers are 1-1 having lost a close season-opener to Arizona.

With the NFL adding a third wild-card team this year in each conference, it is possible that the NFC West could send all four teams, but as good as the division appears to be, I still think that would be tough to pull off.

The problem with good divisions is they tend to beat up on each other over the course of the two head-to-head matchups—somebody is going to be taking losses in all of those games—so it can be a challenge for all four teams to win enough games outside of the conference to finish ahead of the second-place finisher from another division.

At this point the NFC West sending three teams to the postseason doesn't seem unlikely at all, but a fourth team, while not out of the question, would be quite a feat.

@BellCowBack asks, "What's the plan to replace Bruce Irvin? Could Shaquem Griffin be next man up?" @AdamAnderson864 and @chercheusec also ask about replacing Irvin.

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A: Irvin is such a unique player that the Seahawks very well might replace his playing time with multiple players. Irvin plays nearly every snap in Seattle's defense, splitting time between strongside linebacker in base defense and defensive end in nickel packages, and while Shaquem Griffin, who is currently on the practice squad, has experience in both of those roles, my guess would be that Irvin's snaps get split up between multiple players. Griffin is definitely one possibility to help, particularly if the Seahawks want to reprise the pass-rush role he took on late in the season, but in base defense, the Seahawks could turn to Cody Barton, who started games at that position late last season, or to rookie Jordyn Brooks, who has so far worked mostly at weakside linebacker but who has the versatility to play all the linebacker spots.

In terms of the defensive end rotation, Carroll did say the Seahawks will use Alton Robinson this week after the rookie was inactive the previous two games, and they will also likely have L.J. Collier and Damontre Moore take on bigger roles. Getting Rasheem Green back from the neck injury that kept him out last week will also help, whether that comes this week or later.

@quang2004 asks, "Why go long on third-and-1 with 2 minutes left?"

A: This question is referring to the decision to take a shot deep to Tyler Lockett on third-and-1 late in Sunday's game. The pass went incomplete, meaning the Seahawks had to punt the ball back to the Patriots, who nearly drove the length of the field for the winning score.

There's a couple things at play here. For starters, once the Seahawks decide to throw—running on third-and-a-long-yard when the defense is loading up to stop that is always a challenging proposition—there are a number of options Wilson can choose from, not just the deep ball. But often times, as was the case on Sunday, defenses focus on the shorter routes in those types of situation, leaving a higher-risk, higher-reward pass as a better matchup if you trust your quarterback and receivers, which the Seahawks obviously do.

"We had other routes on that got covered, coming underneath," Carroll said after the game. "Russ, he knows the concept so well, he knew he had a one-on-one with (Lockett) and that just shows you the confidence he has in throwing it, but we kind of got jammed up in the things that we wanted, to just make the first down. That was his third choice."

Wilson and the Seahawks have always shown the willingness to be aggressive in third and fourth-down situations, because, as mentioned above, defenses tend to focus on taking away short passes and the run. And a lot of times, that aggressiveness has worked out great, such as in Week 1 when Wilson hit DK Metcalf for a 38-yard touchdown on fourth-and-short, or in the playoffs against Philadelphia when Seattle put the game on ice with a deep ball to Metcalf on third down, or in 2018 when on fourth-and-3 Wilson hit David Moore for the go-ahead score against Carolina, or in that same game when Wilson hit Lockett for 43 yards on third-and-5, or on numerous third downs over the years when teams brought pressure and Wilson hit Lockett or Doug Baldwin for big gains.

Does it work every single time? No. But with a quarterback who throws the best deep ball in the game and receivers who are good at making plays down field, it's a risk that has paid off a lot of times over the years.

@irliteach asks, "What was the atmosphere like at the game?"

A: Honestly, it was pretty weird. With no fans, you hear players and coaches making noise, and in the big moments you'd expect CenturyLink Field to go crazy, the noise level remains basically the same other than maybe a little more energy coming from the sideline. I will say that, as a team, the Seahawks seem to be doing a really good job of creating their own energy on the field, so I don't think the empty stadiums are necessarily affecting their play, but it definitely isn't the same without fans in the building.

@SkiffFeldspar asks, "Which Seahawk has the best sneaker collection?"

A: You mean besides Pete Carroll's collection of Air Monarchs?

To get an actual answer, because I'm a 40-year-old with two young kids who knows nothing of what is cool when it comes to sneakers, I reached out to Michael Shawn-Dugar, the self-proclaimed owner of "the best kick game" at The Athletic, to get a younger man's opinion. Dugar confirmed my uninformed opinion that it is defensive end Branden Jackson, saying "B-Jack by a mile."

Though if you're a fan of Jordans, it's hard to top Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams, who are Jordan Brand athletes. And while were at it, since he was kind enough to help, check out Dugar's article from last year on players relationship with sneaker culture.

Barry Luft from Vancouver asks, "Pete Carroll, what's the deal with not wearing a mask?" Andrew Korbel from Newport and Iris McBride from Tacoma also expressed concern with Carroll's mask wearing.

A: Carroll agrees he needs to do better, and said as much this week after the league fined him and other coaches who didn't properly wear masks during their Week 2 games.

"We wear masks all day at practice, we wear them around the building," Carroll said. "I know it's extremely important to wear masks. Sometimes you've just got to be reminded. Sometimes you've got to get coached up."

Bill Polei from Seattle asks if "we can get someone other than John Boyle to answer questions, especially those pertaining to social justice? His objectivity and recognition that many fans don't want politics in their sports is severely impaired."

A: A: Short answer: No.

Longer answer: athletes are human beings and have every right to stand up for what they believe in. I'll let my comments from last week's mailbag stand other than to reiterate that players are fighting against systemic racism, police brutality, and they're encouraging people to vote. None of that is political, or at least it shouldn't be unless one's politics are anti-voting and pro-racism and police brutality.

The best photos from Week 2's Seahawks-Patriots matchup on Sunday Night Football at CenturyLink Field. Presented by Nesquik.

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