Taking stock of the Hawks
The crowd is a little tougher in Seattle this season. Oh, it's not like Philadelphia. Nobody is booing Santa Claus or slinging batteries...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The crowd is a little tougher in Seattle this season.
Oh, it's not like Philadelphia. Nobody is booing Santa Claus or slinging batteries.
But the city that gets teased for its adjective-laden coffee orders is starting to get a little picky in terms of its professional football. Consider that the Seahawks are 3-1 — tied for the best start in franchise history and one victory more than this time last season — and the question around town this week isn't whether the Seahawks are this good, but if they're going to get better.
Some of that is a product of circumstance. Not only is an NFL team only as good as its last win, it's as bad as its last loss — and the Seahawks were last seen getting drop-kicked 37-6 in Chicago. But as the Seahawks take a break one-quarter of the way through their season, let's pause to get our bearings:
Three things we know
1. The Seahawks offense is going to improve.
The team is currently 22nd in the league in yardage and 14th in points. The production will improve; that trend can be documented since Mike Holmgren became coach in 1999. The Seahawks' average offensive yardage has increased after the first four games in all but one season under Holmgren. Scoring similarly increased in all but one of Seattle's first seven seasons under Holmgren (see chart).
2. Jerramy Stevens' return is going to help the offense.
Stevens, who had a career-high 45 receptions in 2005, is expected back on the practice field beginning today after missing the first month as he recovered from knee surgery. Holmgren involves the tight end in his game plan more than other versions of the West Coast offense. And while Stevens won't ever be confused with one of the league's better blocking tight ends, his absence has affected the running game. The Seahawks have used more four-receiver formations the past two games, which is more difficult to run out of.
3. Teams aren't going to stop testing the Seahawks secondary.
Seattle is deep along the defensive line and has great speed at linebacker. That has led teams to seek out alternative routes, and instead of going through the defense, opponents look to go over it. The Seahawks have already given up three passes of 40 or more yards this season. Two of them have gone for touchdowns, and the over-the-top attempts are only going to increase.
Three things we don't know
1. When we'll see Shaun Alexander up and running again.
It was encouraging for Alexander to see the swelling and pain in his left foot subside last week, but he'll have tests taken this week to see if the bone is still cracked. The general expectation is he will be back later this month, but the lack of a definitive timeline means that no one is certain.
2. If the Seahawks' red-zone efficiency will return with Alexander.
Seattle has had 11 red-zone possessions, and has scored seven touchdowns on those possessions. That percentage is tied for seventh in the NFL. However, the Seahawks settled for field goals twice when inside Chicago's 10. Red-zone efficiency is one of the things that made the Seahawks special last season, when they scored a touchdown 71.7 percent of the time they entered the red zone, best in the league.
3. If it's recent history or overall history that is the most accurate gauge.
This is the fourth time Seattle has gone 3-1 since Holmgren became coach. The Seahawks made the playoffs each of the three previous times it happened, but from 1984 to '98, Seattle started four different seasons 3-1 and went on to make the playoffs only once.
Three things we're still trying to figure out
1. How much do the Seahawks miss Steve Hutchinson?
The Seahawks' rushing average has declined from 4.7 yards per carry last year to 3.4 yards. They had allowed six sacks through four games last season, but have given up 13 sacks this year. The temptation is to say that Hutchinson's absence is the primary explanation.
But a couple of things are worth noting: Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris found his way past Chris Spencer a couple of times on Oct. 1. He also beat Hutchinson the week before. Also, Seattle's entire line has felt pain this season. Both Sean Locklear and Chris Gray missed practices because of knee injuries the last week of September. Center Robbie Tobeck underwent arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in training camp. Floyd Womack is out with an injured knee, and Walter Jones hurt his shoulder in the exhibition season, then suffered a sprained ankle in the season opener.
2. Is Seattle's pass rush a factor, or is it fading?
The Seahawks were tied for the league lead with 50 sacks last season. They have 10 now, which isn't bad, but eight were in the first two games. They have just two the past two games, and the inability to pressure Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman allowed him to complete a pair of passes for 40 or more yards.
3. Will the team's health improve or worsen?
Every coach will tell you injuries are a part of the game. They're also a big part of the explanation for why some seasons head south. Safety Mike Green is the most important player to be lost for the season, but Seattle was missing its leading rusher and its starting tight end in Chicago and it showed in the team's offensive performance.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Improving over time|
|Fast starts aren't what have distinguished Mike Holmgren's offense since he came to Seattle. It's the way the Seahawks have finished:|
|Avg. yds.||Avg. pts.|
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