BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 11/18/2020

Thiel: Part of Seahawks slump: Limping O-line

Russell Wilson is at the center of a storm of criticism over his 10 turnovers in the Seahawks’ slide. But a wounded O-line is partly the cause of the worst sack rate in NFL.

The last time RB Chris Carson was seen in action was at Arizona Oct. 26, when he had five carries for 34 yards and one reception for seven yards before spraining a foot. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Furrows in the collective brow of the 12s over Russell Wilson run Grand Canyon deep. Is he hurt? Concussed? Mad at Pete Carroll? Worst of all — is he actually Mr. Limited?

The likely answer to all is no. Well, maybe he’s banged up, but he’ll never admit it. He’s like The Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. After getting his arm cut off in a sword fight with King Arthur, TBK says, “Tis but a scratch.”

Wilson rarely admits to anything that would signal vulnerability. But after the Seahawks’ 5-0 start in which his spectacular play made him a local and national darling, he began tailing off in the game at Arizona Oct. 26 — 33 for 50 for 388 yards and three touchdowns, but three interceptions, two sacks and nine quarterback hits, and an 84.8 passer rating.

That 37-34 defeat in overtime was the first of three losses in the past four games, responsibility for which has fallen mostly upon Wilson and his 10 collective turnovers.

As with most things in football, nosedives are a team effort.

Offensive-line injuries and a subsequent falloff in pass protection have contributed to the Seahawks’ decay. LT Duane Brown and guards Mike Iupati, Jordan Simmons and Damien Lewis have missed time. The latest Wednesday is that starting C Ethan Pocic (concussion) will miss his second game in a row, and backup Kyle Fuller (ankle) is listed as questionable ahead of Thursday’s national-TV rematch (5:20 p.m., FOX) between the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, both 6-3.

Whether both, either or neither are available may not be known until game time. The third-string center is Jamarco Jones, 24, who has played 71 scrimmage snaps this season, including 15 at guard Sunday in Los Angeles in the 23-16 loss to the Rams.

The result of the line wounds and the Wilson miscues is that Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks adjusted sack rate of 8.7 percent as the worst in the NFL.

Obviously, pass protection includes tight ends and backs, as well as Wilson’s ability to get rid of the ball, which has been a persistent weakness in his game.

All facets have collaborated of allow 30 sacks sacks of Wilson, fourth-most in the NFL, trailing only Carson Wentz (Eagles), Joe Burrow (Bengals) and Daniel Jones (Giants). In the losses at Buffalo and LA, Wilson was sacked a combined 11 times, with 23 QB hits.

So, the offense’s decline, while the defense remains deficient, is not solely because he’s been off his game.

“Our offensive line is a great line,” he said Tuesday, more chipper than he was Sunday after the dispiriting loss in LA. “I think you definitely have had some bumps and bruises along the way. Folks are going down, injured and dinged up. Obviously Kyle got a little bad luck. He did a great job last week stepping in (for Pocic), then (sprained) his ankle. He kept battling against a great defensive line.

“The first five games or so, we had the same consistency, for the most part, with those front five guys, and (since) gotten dinged up a little. But the good thing is that (the backups) have been battle-tested.”

The Arizona game also was when Seattle’s top two running backs, Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (hamstring) went down, keeping alive the gruesome tradition of the Glendale stadium being a chamber of Seattle horrors, despite the 6-1-1 record there over the past eight games.

Hyde will play Thursday — “he looked strong throughout the week,” Carroll said Wednesday afternoon — and Carson was listed as questionable.

In case you were wondering, Arizona’s quarterback, the remarkable second-year star Kyler Murray, has been sacked 13 times, tied for 18th. That’s 17 fewer than Wilson over nine games. In his rookie season, he was sacked 50 times, two more than Wilson. So it would seem that Murray is getting smarter and his  protection is improving.

Perhaps the most unusual stat to emerge from the first matchup was the fact that Murray, despite throwing 48 times (completing 34 for 360 yards and three touchdown with one pick), was neither sacked nor hit.

That may be the defining single-game failure of the Seahawks defense in the season to date.

LB Bobby Wagner believes it can be rectified. How, he didn’t say.

“I definitely feel like there’s things that we did that game that is correctable,” he said Tuesday. “I think we had opportunities to do so. We just got to execute. I don’t think we had (SS Jamal Adams) last game we didn’t have a couple other guys. I think we’ll be able to get some.”

Wilson dismissed his swoon with a baseball-hitter analogy.

“You go oh-for-four. The next time, you go oh-for-four. Next, again — how did I get to 0-for-12?” he said. “You keep swinging. That’s the thing. Great hitters, great shooters, great golfers, great quarterbacks, they find a way to get back out of it. That’s just the belief.”

If it doesn’t work Thursday, the Seahawks, like The Black Knight, will be down a limb.

Cards’ Peterson to Budda Baker: ‘You’re on your own’

Here’s Arizona CB Patrick Peterson’s amusing description in an NFL Network interview with Rich Eisen on watching Seahawks WR DK Metcalf blow past him on the way to running down Budda Baker on his return of a Russell Wilson interception, the NFL’s most astonishing play of the season.


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YourThoughts

  • Mark Maples

    Well, I’ve got no right to dispute or argue with either Art, or Russell Wilson. But I do have a couple a points. First, I liked Wilson’s use of the baseball analogy, he used to play baseball, and at a pretty high level too. So he says to keep on swinging, keep up the process and the hits will eventually drop. Even if you’re pretty good but 0 for 12 at one point. OK, I like baseball too, and to just provide another perspective, here goes…. Getting beaned hurts. A lot, but it passes. Imagine getting beaned a couple times last week, a couple times yesterday, and a couple times at todays game. No-bod-ee is getting over that mentally, and I’d bet that for the next several at bats, the mental situation would be a bit less than fantastic. And manifest itself in the next several at bats.

    Then, back to football, same line of thinking though… Just yesterday a semi famous scribe (Art) wrote of Wilson that ” He’s getting pounded. ” Meaning I think, that Wilson has been sacked and hit a lot for weeks at least lately. Ouch, but there’s not many tougher than Wilson. Still, its got to have a mental effect. And maybe a physical one too.

    Fix Wilson getting pounded all the time and a lot of the Seahawks weakness disappears. Thats what I think.

    • art thiel

      I believe that was a big part of the column: The O-line injuries leave Wilson vulnerable. It’s not exactly new; he’s always been in the top third annually of QB sacks/hits. But in previous years, he typically has had good RBs or good D, or both. That’s not the case at the moment.

  • 1coolguy

    I guess what’s scary is what unit is doing well? Other than the kicking game, here are my grades:
    QB – B+
    O line – F
    RB’s – F
    Receivers – A
    LB’s – B
    DB’s – D
    DL – C
    Some grades are the result of injuries, but these are their status as I see them going into the Cardinal game.
    So ok everyone, have at it!

    • art thiel

      For a 6-3 team, you’re harsh. Glad I didn’t have you as my English teacher.

      • 1coolguy

        haha – I’d slap you around with my thesaurus!
        Come on Art – 6-3 yes, BUT 1-3 their last 4 games. These are grades as the positions are today going into the Cards game. Come on, they are 100% open for opinion/change/correction. It’s what makes rankings interesting when they cannot be based on facts. So go for it!

    • Chris Alexander

      I think you’re grading the O-line unfairly based on their last 2 games being subpar. For most of the season though, they’ve been rated pretty highly by PFF; and considerably higher than Seattle’s O-line usually has been under the current regime.

      The RB group should also get graded on a curve. They were easily earning a B (or higher) before Carson and Hyde went down in Arizona. And the sheer magnitude of their loss and how it affected the team cannot be understated. I won’t play the “if” game, but I will say that I doubt Seattle would have gone 1-3 over the last 4 games with either or both of them healthy.

      On the flip side, I think giving the D-line a C grade may be generous.

      And I don’t think I’d have given the DBs anything but an F. And I feel bad saying that. I mean, other than the 4th quarter of the SF game and the entirety of the Bills game, the DBs have been doing “better” recently, but they honestly didn’t have much choice after giving up 1,319 passing yards the first 3 weeks. I believe that they’ll continue to improve but they’ve been a dumpster fire most of the season and dumpster fires get Fs in my book.

      • art thiel

        Dunbar is now on the 3-game reserve list, but injuries have damaged any chance for coherence.

  • Alan Harrison

    This is all rough. “Too bad” is probably the best I can come up with. This 6-3 team is about an inch away from 7-5 after Cards, Eagles, Giants (don’t laugh – the Giants are surging and are playing loose as all get out). Plus, I think Tyler Ott is the backup center now, so, there’s that. Or maybe it’s Jason Meyers. Or me. At this point, all I wish for is health for everyone, even the stupid people.

    • art thiel

      Right now at the Clink, er, Lumen, rookie Damien Lewis is practicing at center.

      • Alan Harrison

        I’m so happy I was wrong. It was a rather skillful win, especially for a Thursday. Very sorry to see Greg Olson get his comeback cut short, but there’s a spot in the booth for him. Brandon Shell? Who knows if he’ll play again this year? And Bo Scarborough? I always liked him for the Seahawks out of Bama, but had no idea he was the 7th string RB. And then, after a relatively productive night… bang. Poor guy.

  • Husky73

    “All right (with no arms or legs), we’ll call it a draw.”

    • art thiel

      One of cinema’s most hilarious absurdities.

    • Cheryl Gilmore

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  • jafabian

    All teams have O-Line deficiencies of varying degrees as well as injuries throughout their roster. DangeRuss is at his best when he spreads the wealth among his receiving targets which hasn’t been happening during the Hawks losing skid. At this point the best tonic the team can have is getting healthy. IMO Wilson should be getting rid of the ball ASAP to compensate for the inconsistency of the line. And they are inconsistent because there’s been times they’ve been fine. I find myself wishing DJ Fluker was still here.

    • art thiel

      Regarding Wilson, Carroll has often wished the same. But it’s part of the package that comes with his style of play.

  • Chris Alexander

    How ironic is it to wish that we still had BJ Finney?

    (since many of us lamented his signing when both Pocic and Fuller ended up above him on the depth chart coming out of training camp)

    • art thiel

      He could be the offense’s MVP right now. Seahawks starting Damien Lewis at center.

      • Chris Alexander

        That’s both funny and painful at the same time. ROOKIE POWER !!!!

  • Will Ganschow

    And now we don’t even have The Clink.

    • art thiel

      But we do have the Loo (hope you’ve been to the UK).

      • Will Ganschow

        Good! I was wondering what you were going to come up with.