BY Art Thiel 06:44PM 12/11/2019

Thiel: Linebacker play set back Seahawks in LA

“They’ve had better games,” said DC Ken Norton Jr. of the Seahawks linebackers in the Rams loss. Part of it was a rookie starting his first game, part of it was plain old confusion.

WR Cooper Kupp caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown as the Rams offense worked the perimeter to spread the Seahawks defense. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After several questions about the perplexing failures in Sunday’s 28-12 loss to the Rams, coach Pete Carroll offered a hint to media members at Wednesday’s presser on the direction he’d like rest of the conversation to take:

” . . . moving on,” he said.

To Carolina. To a road game Sunday morning against a Panthers team that fired its long-time coach last week, is without injured star QB Cam Newton is 5-8 this season and 1-6 in the regular seasons against the Seahawks during Carroll’s tenure.

Some might characterize the match-up as a soft landing after the hard fall in the Coliseum.

Of course, that assumes the Seahawks will win, which, despite being cast as a six-point favorite, is harder to assume after what was seen in Los Angeles. Which gets us looking back to Sunday instead of ahead.

Sorry, Pete. A long shadow has been cast.

Carroll and crew went to some lengths to hail the Rams rather than castigate the Seahawks.

“Other than their turnovers, they played near-perfect, and we needed to be at that level,” said Carroll. “We weren’t. You’ve got to give them credit.”

Said defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.: “You’ve got to give the Rams a lot of credit. They played really, really well. They are a good team and we didn’t match their execution.”

Apart from the giving of more credit than a Russian bank, Seahawks coaches have to confront the unexpected development of poor play from a veteran linebackers unit that had been one of the team’s strengths.

The most obvious problem was rookie Cody Barton making his first career start in place of injured Mychal Kendricks (hamstring). That left Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to worry about the new kid as well as the Rams’ precision array of play-action, jet sweeps and assorted misdirection, delivered up-tempo.

“There were a couple things that happened that got us off,” Carroll said, declining to elaborate. “There’s enough newness that kind of contributed to it. (Barton) had to make his alignments, and it happened really fast.

“Then, worrying about the new guys. It wasn’t as good as we needed to be. We just have to eat it. There’s nothing I can tell you, other than we didn’t do it well enough.”

Norton was uncharacteristically direct.

“They’ve had better games,” he said. “Cody being a rookie, you expect some inconsistency. He played some plays really well, and the plays he didn’t play really well were plays that may have hurt us a little bit.

“It’s kind of tough putting him in there in that type of situation but, he’s developing really well.”

The problem is that December is a lousy time for development. It’s also a lousy time to be unable to line up properly pre-snap. Especially in the Rams’ first two possessions that ended up being touchdown drives, the Seahawks frequently weren’t assignment-correct.

“Not being lined up, that’s not us,” said CB Shaquill Griffin. “We can’t allow that to happen. That was the toughest part. We usually don’t get caught off-guard. We knew they were up-tempo, but there were times when we weren’t ready.”

That problem was not about Barton, who also had minor knee and ankle injuries that caused him to miss some plays.

“It was miscommunication, not a rookie,” Griffin said. “We have more than enough vets on the field to make that not happen. We’re unstoppable when we’re set.”

Answering a question after the game about the lapses, team captain Wagner took responsibility: “That’s on me,” he said.

There were also laments about the defensive calls arriving belatedly from Norton.

“They were effective in their tempo,” he said. “It comes down to getting lined up and communicating. I think everybody had a little piece of that.”

For his part, Barton said he thought he did all right for a first start.

“The biggest thing was getting my feet wet, which was good,” said Barton, a second-round pick after an all-Pac-12 season at Utah. “Regardless of where the call is at, if you make a call, even if it’s the wrong way, we’re on the same page. If we’re all wrong, we’re alright.

“You don’t know what to expect, but you trust that you’re there for a reason. As the game went on I got more into the flow of how things work.”

If Kendricks can’t go Sunday, Barton will be in the flow again, although at the Coliseum, he and the rest of the Seahawks defense, which had no sacks and only four quarterback hits, looked swept away. The Rams had 455 yards of offense and a whopping 6.8 yards per play.

Given that Carolina has lost five in a row by an average margin of 13 points and has an offense ranked 21st (341 ypg), a Seahawks win won’t be much of a gauge on the recovery of Seattle’s defense from the Rams debacle.

But if you see them all zipped, tucked and fitted in their proper spots, looking at the Panthers offense instead of each other in bewilderment, consider it a good start, even if it is mid-December.


  • Effzee

    You know… I worried at the beginning of the season that the linebackers looked a bit more lumbering that in the past. Younger, faster RBs and TEs seemed to be running right past them on those shallow crossing routes and screens. Did Wagner, KJ and Kendricks all kind of get old-ish at the same time? I heard Hugh Millen kind of calling out Wagner the other day for not playing as aggressively as before. I think this is why they drafted Barton and BBK, and why they desperately need to get something out of Griff.

    • art thiel

      You’re right, they have slowed. As has Wilson. Always a risk, and why the Seahawks shied away (in part) from Thomas and Sherman.

      • coug73

        The ravages of time and blunt force trauma will not be denied.

  • jafabian

    B-Swag is not playing at the first team All-Pro level we’re used to. There were times he was caught out of position or reacted late against the Rams. I suppose a drop off is to be expected since he’s hit 30 but it’s part of why the defense has been inconsistent. He needs to accept he isn’t the player he was and adjust or else he’s going to go down the road Felix Hernandez is on.

    For someone who prides himself on playing rookies early I’ve been surprised that Coach Carroll hasn’t played Barton and especially BBK more. BBK had an outstanding final preseason game to make the team. At least Shaquem is playing more and again when he was in he pressured the QB. With the weak pass rush the Hawks have he should play even more.

    • Effzee

      Pete is all about competition and putting the best guys on the field, so if they ain’t playing, they ain’t ready. (Aside from, obviously, as injury replacements.)

      • art thiel

        I do think Carroll is granting latitude to Wagner and Wright for non-playing reasons. Leadership is a hard thing to create a metric for.

      • Husky73

        I would sure like to see BBK get some snaps.

        • Effzee

          Agreed! Some guys are just gamers. Ya never know!

          • Husky73

            …..and I’m raking leaves.

          • art thiel

            I think BBK is too small to be more than a special teams guy. He should get scrimmage time at this point only in emergencies.

    • art thiel

      There’s been falloff in Wagner’s play. Wright’s sore knees aren’t getting better with heavy use. and Kendricks is temporarily out. Unfortunately for Carroll, Barton and BBK have not shown enough in practice to be of immediate help in December.

      • DB

        -Which is why it’s so interesting that the team continues the scheme of playing the LB’s on obvious passing downs vs more DB’s. I know Pete deflected the notion that this is the source of the poor pass defense we’ve seen all season, but clearly the LB’s are getting used more, and asked to do more, at time that they might benefit from a few less snaps. Much of the discussion this season has been about the lack of a pass rush, but to this viewer the issue has primarily been with the secondary not covering well enough to allow the rush to get home.

        • art thiel

          Pete’s priority is to stop the run, which largely has been accomplished with the 3 vet LBs. The pass coverage pre-Diggs was weak and exploitable, but until the LA game, was on an uptick. What needs to be established Sunday is that the poor LA production was a one-off. The problem is that CAR is such a mess that it may produce a false positive.