The Seahawks travel to Arizona for their final regular season game this weekend, but before the week kicks into gear Wednesday, let's answer some questions from you the fans. As always, thanks to all who submitted questions, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this week.
@JonRyanFacts asks, "Should the Seahawks rest their starters against AZ?"
A: This is a popular topic of discussion this time of year, especially when players are battling injuries or when the starting quarterback just got hit 13 times the previous week, but it's not one Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is really willing to entertain.
Carroll made it clear last week that the Seahawks would be playing to win in their season finale even if they had clinched the No. 5 seed by now, which they haven't. So with this game still holding some meaning in terms of seeding, not to mention the desire to recapture momentum after a loss, Carroll isn't about to give a game away just to keep guys fresh.
"It has to do with just the overall approach to how we compete," Carroll said. "We're giving it everything we got every time we go, and we don't know any other way. As long as you have your plays out there, you're going for it. Whether it's preseason or whatever. If you're playing 10 plays in a preseason game, we expect you to give everything you've got. I don't think it's ever a good thing to train a player to not do that, and train a team to not do that. So we've been doing it for a long time with that same thought."
Of course playing to win and taking unnecessary risks aren't the same thing. As Carroll has noted, the Seahawks like to rotate players in and out as much as they can in general to keep everyone fresh, so expect that to continue. And if a player is battling an injury and not quite ready to come back, the Seahawks will, as always, err on the side of caution.
"We always are working to make smart decisions, and really the educated decision on what's best for the players over the long haul, we're always doing that," he said. "That's just part of our thinking anyways, so I think we take all that into account at this time as well. We really exercise the rotations in a big way whenever we can at any position. We always would do that, so we'll just continue to do that, and try and take care of our guys… We have the same thought we always have. Everything we can go at with this game, go for it, and then we'll crank it all back up again next time, with the same thought of our rotations and stuff like we've done."
@bedirthan asks, "Would Jon Ryan ever cower in fear? What would it take?"
A: This question, of course, is referencing Rams punter Johnny Hekker drawing a flag for a blindside hit on Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril during Sunday's game, then falling to the ground later when Avril and Michael Bennett got in his face. And as it turns out, this isn't the first time Hekker has gotten in an extracurricular shot after a punt.
As for the question about Ryan, he is certainly a better athlete than most would assume given his position, having also played receiver in college, and competed on American Ninja Warrior in the offseason. So would an opposing defensive end make Ryan cower? Maybe, maybe not, but if the Tonight Show is to be believed, Ryan might want to hide from direct sunlight.
@zhawks5 asks, "In your opinion, what's the key to winning this Sunday? Better defensive or offensive performance?"
A: This is an interesting question, and a fitting one as the Seahawks prepare to face a team that ranks first in the NFL in total offense and points per game, and fifth in points allowed and total defense. In other words, the Seahawks probably need to be pretty darn good on both sides of the ball to beat what might be the best and most balanced team in the NFL this season.
Based on last week's performance alone, you could say the offense has more catching up to do seeing as Seattle turned the ball over three times and managed only 17 points, its lowest total since a Nov. 1 win at Dallas. But as well as the Cardinals have played on offense all season, and as big of numbers as Carson Palmer and company put up in the last meeting—39 points, 451 total yards, 30 first downs—you could also argue that the Seahawks defense has the bigger challenge on its hands.
Either way, it is likely going to take a balanced effort for the Seahawks to get a win in Arizona.
@globfacegaming asks, "If @MoneyLynch is healthy for this week should/will he be taking limited snaps to save up for the postseason?"
A: Carroll noted that Marshawn Lynch has a chance to return to practice this week, which would indicate he is closing in a return from abdomen surgery sometime soon. If Lynch does play this week, which is far from a given at this point, then it's likely he could be limited in that game, though not to keep him fresh for the postseason. Having appeared in only seven games this season with 111 carries, wear-and-tear isn't an issue heading into the playoffs. If anything, Lynch could be limited because the Seahawks don't want to overwork him in his first game back and risk an injury in the process.
@MilesDaily asks, "Can the Seahawks get Okung, Chancellor, Lynch and Baldwin all healthy for the Wild Card round?"
A: We covered Lynch above, but as for those other players, there's a very good chance all will be available by the playoffs, if not this week, should they get through this week OK. Baldwin made it through last week's game fine despite a hamstring issue, and in fact played more snaps than any other receiver, so unless he has a setback, that shouldn't be a concern.
Left tackle Russell Okung, who missed last week's game with a calf injury, safety Kam Chancellor, who has missed two games with a pelvis injury, and defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who has missed four games with a toe injury, are all "getting pretty close now," Carroll said. So even if one or all miss this week's game, Carroll said he would expect to have them for the Wild Card round the following week.
@CoachKWright asks, "Why did the Hawks have to move the ball back to the spot of the fumble but the Rams did not?"
A: We got a couple of questions on this topic after Jermaine Kearse recovered a Doug Baldwin fumble late in the first half, but the ball was moved back to the spot where Baldwin fumbled. In the second half, however, the Rams recovered two fumbles that had gone forward and got those extra yards.
The reason for the discrepancy is when the fumbles happened. Thanks to a famous game-winning play from a 1978 Oakland Raiders win over the San Diego Chargers, known as the "Holy Roller," the league added a rule that when a fumble occurs inside the two-minute warning and that a fumble that goes forward, the ball is moved back to the spot of the fumble if it is recovered by the offense. In the "Holy Roller" game, the Raiders won by knocking a fumble forward several times into the end zone as time expired.
@3lone asks, "Did Zach Miller retire?"
A: No, he's playing for the Chicago Bears… I kid, I kid. Strange as it may seem, there are in fact two Zach Millers who are/were NFL tight ends, which has led to a lot of confusion for Seattle fans as the Bears version of Zach Miller has enjoyed the best season of his four-year career.
As for the former Seahawks Zach Miller, to my knowledge he has not retired officially, but as anyone who follows the game is well aware, players don't always get to decide when their career ends. Miller's 2014 season ended early because of an ankle injury, and whether it was his choice or one collectively made by 32 teams that didn't reach out, Miller has not played this season.
@Dah_knee asks, "How is Russell Wilson feeling after the pounding he took against the Rams?"
A: Better than you'd expect after taking 13 hits, a few of them being more violent than the ones Wilson usually subjects himself to. Wilson downplayed those hits after the game, saying "It's football… I'm fine, I'm good to go."
Carroll reiterated Monday that his quarterback was OK, and when asked how Wilson avoids injury despite being hit, Carroll said, "He's a good athlete. He's got some ninja in him or something. He can get out of those hits. He's really great at avoiding getting banged. He got hit a couple of times, but he'll be fine for this week."
@helenofpullman asks, "What is your beverage of choice to keep the haters from holding you back?"
A: So a little background here. Helen is one of our PR interns with the Seahawks, and has the misfortune of sitting near me, which means she's subject to my terrible sense of humor. That includes making some sort of dumb joke just about every time the Rick Ross song "Hold Me Back" is played at a Seahawks game or practice, which is often. For example:
Alas, I don't feel I need a beverage to keep the haters from holding me back, but if you're offering, I'm partial to a nice Pacific Northwest IPA.
@JaredStanger asks, "Where is Tye Smith at in terms of his development as a rookie CB? How does the team see him going forward?"
A: Smith, a fifth-round pick out of Towson, has only been active for six games this season, but that likely has a lot more to do with the position he plays and with his current place on the depth chart than it does the team's opinion of him as someone who can help them in the long run.
General manager John Schneider gushed about Smith after the Seahawks drafted him, and while some fans might have hoped that would translate to an immediate impact, it's worth remembering that cornerback in particular is a position that requires some patience when it comes to Seattle's defense. Even Richard Sherman, an eventual first-team All-Pro, was buried on the depth chart as a rookie and only became a starter because of multiple injuries in front of him. Other cornerbacks who have developed into starters or significant contributors, players like Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead, all had to take the time to learn Seattle's technique before making their mark. And the fact that a veteran starter like Cary Williams didn't work out here is only more evidence that, more often than not, cornerbacks need time to develop when it comes to this defense.
As for where he fits in, it's too early to say—though even in an "Always Compete" world, I think we can safely assume Richard Sherman will keep his starting job next season—but Carroll has mentioned in the past that they want to see Smith play in the nickel role as well as outside, so that flexibility could help him find a role more quickly somewhere down the road.