The Seahawks app is pretty depressing lately. If I get one more notification telling me a key Seahawks player is out for the year, my phone probably will not survive the fallout. Five defensive linemen and two tight ends are on the injured reserve list just over halfway through the season. It will require some fantastic coaching and big contributions from unexpected sources to keep the Seahawks championship hopes alive. The odds have gotten longer, but it will take a few weeks to know how these changes and players impact results on the field.
Three men still will not equal Brandon Mebane
“When the well is dry, we know the true value of water.” – Benjamin Franklin
The irony should not be lost on anyone that the biggest man on the field is the most invisible. Mebane is the key to the Seahawks run defense, and there should be no illusion that he can be replaced. His injury in 2010 devastated what had been the league’s best run defense. That Seahawks squad had been allowing 2.8 yards per carry and 72.3 yards rushing per game until Mebane was hurt. They allowed 4.9 yards per carry and 130.2 yards rushing per game over the next five games when Mebane sat out. This Seahawks defense is far better than that one, but the task of replacing Mebane against the run is no easier.
Mebane played less than half of the snaps this year (47.7%), according to FootballOutsiders.com
. He would come off the field in passing situations and be replaced by some combination of Michael Bennett sliding inside to DT and either Jordan Hill or Kevin Williams. Mebane and either Tony McDaniel or Williams would play inside in the base defense. When the Seahawks wanted to go super heavy against the run, they could put McDaniel at defensive end, and have Mebane and Williams inside, with either Bennett or Avril at the other end.
Williams will likely slide over to nose tackle now, and McDaniel will stay at 3-technique DT next to him in base situations. Hill will continue to team with Bennett inside in nickel for pass rush. Williams prefers to play 3-technique, as it allows him to get up the field and make plays instead of just occupying blockers, but he has played nose tackle and played it well
. Some analysts think nose tackle is his best position
at this stage of his career.
Seattle should be able to be a good run defense with this group, but being the best in football is probably unrealistic. Any more injuries at defensive tackle would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Four men may equal Zach Miller
The loss of Miller for the season is a bitter pill to swallow for an offense that has been struggling to find its footing the last few weeks. Getting Miller back would not have solved all the issues, or even come close, but it would have helped.
Miller is a great pass blocker, a very good run blocker, and makes the most of his receiving opportunities. Luke Willson is an average blocker at best and has been disappointing as a receiver this season. The Seahawks other tight end with blocking and receiving talent, Anthony McCoy, went out for the year during training camp.
Seattle has largely coped with the loss of Miller by playing Willson most sets, but have started making use of Alvin Bailey and Garry Gilliam as tight ends when they want to pound the ball. Coaches prefer to avoid such obvious tells that they are going to run instead of pass, but there are advantages as well.
The Seahawks went heavy in the NFC Championship game last year and it keyed the opening touchdown of the second half. They played Gilliam on 33% of the offensive snaps last week against the Giants while putting up 350 yards on the ground.
Tony Moeaki steps in for Seattle this week. He is best known for this amazing catch
, but he is a capable blocker. His largest question mark has been around health. He has been a starting caliber tight end when he was healthy. The Seahawks are hoping for redemption story that could help put Willson back to his role as a second tight end.
Cooper Helfet has done well as a receiver this year, but is overmatched as a blocker. He can be part of the solution as a second tight end where needed, and couple compete with Willson if Moeaki works out and Willson continues to struggle with catching the ball.
Allen Bradford adds depth in two places
Seattle signed LB Allen Bradford off the Browns practice squad. It is a nondescript move that will make an immediate impact to special teams. Bradford was with Carroll at USC, and is a gifted athlete. He was a running back who has been converted to linebacker.
He is a battering ram at middle linebacker who gives the team more options should Bobby Wagner have trouble staying on the field after he returns from injury. Brock Coyle is a promising rookie, but he also showed up on the injury report this week.
The Seahawks have seen enough of K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker that they would prefer he stays there. That means someone needs to play in the middle, and Coyle or Bradford are the only options until Wagner returns.