10 Things I Think Heading Into Week 15

1. Bryce Brown is a nice pickup

Seattle signed Bryce Brown to replace Thomas Rawls on the roster. Brown has been signed by the Seahawks before, and has had some impressive success in his short NFL career (he is only 24), so you may wonder why he was still available. He is a fumbler. People who were frustrated by Christine Michael’s lack of ball security will have similar reactions to watching Brown run with the ball. The hope is where Michael never proved to be coachable, maybe Brown is, especially after a season off an NFL roster. Brown is a big back at 224 lbs and has speed and wiggle. His style definitely is a better fit than DuJuan Harris, at least based on what Harris has shown so far.

2. Running back trio will be fine, for now

Brown, Harris and Derrick Coleman will compete for snaps while Marshawn Lynch continues his recovery. Harris looks like the anti-Rawls at the moment, low YPC, slow to hit the hole, and a fumbling problem. He has had his shot, so expect Brown and Coleman to get more of a chance this week. My money is on Coleman to get a chance to earn the most snaps this week. He is a “hit the hole” type of player, with little wasted motion and toughness proven from his time at fullback. He will not wow anyone with lateral quickness or breakaway speed, but he could get the majority of the yards the offensive line is providing. He has the added benefit of being a good blocker should the team want to keep him in for pass protection, and he has decent hands as a receiver.

3. Pete Carroll has no idea when Lynch will return

It has to be awkward being an NFL head coach sometimes. Reporters keep asking Pete Carroll about the whereabouts and prognosis for Lynch. Carroll keeps answering in different, evasive, ways. The likely truth is that Carroll and Lynch don’t talk, or at least do it very rarely. Lynch had his surgery and is rehabbing however he wants, wherever he wants, and he will let the team know when he is ready. Carroll is not going to say that. He could try to strong-arm Lynch, but he is smart enough to know that would probably do more harm than good. Better to let Marshawn be Marshawn, and come back when he is ready. Fans, and the head coach, just have to hope that is by the playoffs.

4. These next two weeks are going to be weird, tough

It is rare for storylines to play out as predicted in the NFL. Seattle is favored by a whopping 14.5 points over Cleveland this weekend. They will likely be heavily favored against the Rams the next week. Everyone can see the Seahawks are playing great football, and have already chalked up these games as easy wins. That is probably what will happen, but decades of watching football has my guard up, and I hope the Seahawks players feel the same way. Injuries to Rawls, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, DeShawn Shead, Marcus Burley, and Luke Willson could muddy the picture a bit, especially if the team gets conservative with who plays this weekend. Johnny Manziel is the type of player who can make opposing fans squirm in their seats with improvisation. The Rams always, always, give the Seahawks trouble. One of these games will probably be much tougher than any of us think. 

5. Perception is finally matching reality with Russell Wilson

Fans and media hear Russell Wilson speak and think he is a rare leader, who clearly must be well respected in the locker room. He has won a Super Bowl and played in two, so he is clearly a great quarterback. The reality is that I do not believe either of those things are true. Respect is earned in a locker room when a player pulls his weight on the field, plays through injury, and puts his teammates before himself. Wilson’s improvisational talent was often mixed up with great quarterback play, when often times it was subpar quarterback play that forced him to improvise. That has all changed the past few weeks. He is playing the position as well as anyone ever has. Some people will call it a hot streak. I call it an evolutionary step. He may not have 16 TDs in four games again, but he will never go back to being a player who struggles to throw the ball quickly and with anticipation. A carpenter does not forget how to use a saw. Wilson has acquired new skills. They will be with him the rest of his career. His teammates see it. They respect it. That may be just as important in the end.

6. Wilson’s legs are contributing even without rushing yards

The Ravens did something that was both odd and completely normal on Sunday. They assigned a “spy” to keep Wilson from scrambling. It was something many teams have done in the past, so normal in that sense. But odd, because it showed a total lack of awareness for how the Seahawks have played in recent weeks. Keeping a player in to spy on Wilson takes that defender out of coverage and out of the pass rush. Seattle will be happy if defenses continue to do that. More likely, they will stop doing that, and start playing more coverage schemes or blitz schemes to disrupt the Seahawks passing attack. Guess what happens then? Wilson is going to run all over them. Wilson is playing like Tom Brady as a passer right now. Imagine if Brady could run like Wilson. You don’t have to. 

7. Nobody in the NFC should scare Seahawks fans

The Cardinals and the Panthers are having great seasons. They have very good teams. Neither of them are dominant. Carolina has the best running game Seattle has seen this year, but their passing game is overrated. Cam Newton had a 15.5 rating through three quarters against the Seahawks when Cary Williams was a starting corner. He feasted on Williams, and eventually a blown coverage, in the fourth quarter. He strikes me as a guy who is believing all the great things being said about him, and will force some things out of frustration when the road gets tougher in the playoffs. Their defense is fantastic, but they just lose CB Bene Benwikere for the season with a broken leg, and Charles Tillman is out the rest of the regular season (at least) with a knee injury. That will be something to watch. 
Arizona lost Chris Johnson for the year, unless they make the Super Bowl. They have some decent young replacements, but Johnson was playing at a very high level. Carson Palmer and those receivers are fantastic, and should continue to succeed in the playoffs. The problem is that defense is not as good as they think it is. Lots of gambling and a general lack of pass rush is going to be exploited by quality quarterbacks. Seattle has one of those. The presence of Palmer, and his poise in crunch time, poses the biggest threat to the Seahawks. Neither Arizona nor Carolina are in the same league as the 49ers or even Packer teams of recent years.

8. Bobby Wagner is gaining steam

I thought Sunday was Bobby Wagner’s best game of the season. He was sudden and sure in his tackling, and was covering large chunks of the field. Wagner, for whatever reason, has not been his normal impactful self this year. His return to form could prove vital as the defense tries to stabilize their play heading into the postseason.

9. Garry Gilliam may be your starting left tackle next year

No disrespect to Russell Okung, who has arguably been the best Seahawks lineman this season, but the continuing development of Garry Gilliam at right tackle could provide John Schneider with some interesting options this offseason. He could choose to pay big bucks to Okung to maintain some continuity, and there would be little reason to argue with that choice. He could also find a less expensive right tackle to plug in and swing Gilliam over to left, which is where he played before this season started. Gilliam has shown clear improvement as the season has gone on, with a trajectory that is very promising. Schneider’s decision will be made, in part, by what the market demands for Okung and how that compares to right tackles on the market or in the draft. 

10. The dream is still alive

The absolute best way for this season to end would be the Seahawks beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl in the 49ers home stadium. That seemed dodgy on the Seattle side for much of the year, and even a bit on the Patriots side due to injuries recently. Both combatants have regained their balance and footing and could be starting a lengthy acceleration toward a memorable collision in the new year. 

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