Mookie Alexander of Field Gulls was nice enough to answer five questions about his Seattle Seahawks for us. I especially like doing this series with teams that the Titans don’t play that often because we can gain some valuable insight into this week’s opponent. Mookie did not disappoint.
1. So much of the talk, at least nationally, about the Seahawks is the balance between “Letting Russ cook” and the desire to run the ball. Is that a real issue up there? How do you see it playing out this season?
You may have noticed that the Let Russ Cook cries died down this offseason! Perhaps some of it was tempered by the disappointing performances by Wilson and the passing offense towards the end of the year against much tougher defenses than they faced early on. I’m still a proponent for this offense to be centered around the passing attack — it’s a pass-first league and that’s indisputable fact — but I’m also not stubborn enough to believe you have to be that way every single week. What we saw in the Colts game was balanced on early downs when adjusting for neutral game script. The Seahawks led most of the way and the game strategy had a considerable element of clock control to it, so I can’t read too much into that sample size. I doubt Seattle reverts to its very run-heavy 2018 ways, but rather they find a happy medium where Pete Carroll gets the running game he wants while Wilson is allowed to do his cooking. The process in which Seattle’s offense operates I think extends beyond the run-pass splits. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron spammed play-action in ways Brian Schottenheimer wouldn’t. Wilson thrives off of play-action whether the run game is working or not. They had plenty of pre-snap motion and a lot of misdirection that was lacking in previous offenses. I think the emphasis for this year’s team is less about the general playcalling and more about improving the design and decreasing the predictability and looks that defenses pounced upon. Russ will be allowed to cook, but it’s not going to be a stone age offense. It’s not going to be a carbon copy of what the Rams do, but it’ll have a lot of elements to it that I believe will benefit the Seahawks tremendously.
2. The NFC West looks like the best division in football. How do you see it playing out this season?
It’s going to be a battle for the ages. My preseason prediction was Rams, Seahawks, 49ers, and Cardinals in that order but through just one week I’m thinking Arizona may prove me wrong and take that next step sooner than expected. The 49ers unfortunately for them are snakebitten and just lost Jason Verrett and Raheem Mostert for the season, as well as Dre Greenlaw for several weeks. Injuries undid them throughout last season and if that happens again this year then they’ll be rooted to the bottom once more. So right now I see this most likely being a three-team race among LA, Seattle, and Arizona. I’m leaning towards the Rams winning the division because of how lethal that offense could be with the quarterback upgrade, and that should be enough to offset any defensive decline. Both the NFC North and AFC South look like weak divisions, and they’ll comprise roughly half of the NFC West’s respective schedules. So to be cliche and obvious, it’ll really come down to those six divisional games and the Rams have largely had the Seahawks’ number under Sean McVay, and the Cardinals have yet to beat McVay at all. Having this trio all exceed 10+ wins wouldn’t be a shocker at all.
3. Seattle gave up a lot to bring in Jamal Adams. Are they getting a good return on that trade? What can we expect to see from him in this game?
Two first-rounders is a lot and really it’s still an incomplete grade in my view. There have been more positives than negatives but I won’t declare success or failure until the end of this season. He led the team in sacks with 9.5 in 2020 but that really spoke more to how much the Seahawks relied on him to generate pressure because the front four was often not getting it done. The lack of a proper offseason also led to Adams not really knowing the coverage schemes completely and he did get picked on at times — his PFF grade is unkind and underwhelming but I’m not the world’s biggest PFF fan. Interestingly enough he was mostly in coverage and not rushing the quarterback in the season opener vs. Indianapolis, so that may be a sign of things to come where they will blitz him accordingly but not obsessively. Where I feel Adams excels beyond his pass rushing skills is in run support. I’m blown away by how well Adams pursues ball carriers and can get past the blocks of on-rushing linemen. He’s a sound tackler and has great closing speed. Against the Titans and with the cornerbacks faced with difficult tasks versus Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, I predict Adams will remain predominantly in coverage on passing downs but watch for him to provide extra cover when Tennessee does run it with Derrick Henry. This is where his versatility really is critical facing a team with three super dangerous offensive weapons.
4. Can you tell us some under-the-radar players on the Seahawks roster that Titans fans should know about?
I’ll go on the defensive interior for a pair of names: Poona Ford and Bryan Mone. Ford is a UDFA out of Texas who was pegged primarily as a run-stopper but in 2020 really improved to become a threat to get after the quarterback too. Last season he had two sacks, 14 pressures, and 9 QB hits — all career highs. His bread and butter is still defending the run and his quickness really takes you by surprise when he has to hustle to the outside lanes. Ford and Mone, who stands 6’3” and north of 360 lbs and is another UDFA, are really the key guys when it comes to Seattle’s vastly improved run defense. Mone was monstrous against the Colts last Sunday, getting a pivotal third down stop on Nyheim Hines that set up a 4th and 1 fumble by Carson Wentz. Their consistent ability to shed blockers and do things that don’t show up in the basic stats sheet is what makes that pairing so underappreciated.
5. Do the Seahawks have what it takes to make a run at a Super Bowl this season? What is the biggest weakness they will have to overcome?
I’ve got the Seahawks losing in the Divisional Round again just as they did in 2015, 2016, and 2019. However, if the defense can hover around league average and the offense can maintain elite level production then yes, they absolutely can make a Super Bowl run. We might be in for another special season out of Russell Wilson but minus the 5-6 week stretch where he plays himself straight out of MVP votes. From the limited action I’ve seen out of him in Shane Waldron’s system, I think the sky is the limit for this team’s offensive potential. There’s top-end talent at wide receiver, an underrated running back in Chris Carson, and when healthy this offensive line should not be a game-breaking liability.
As for the weakness that could hold them back? I am still not sold on the quality of depth they have at the outside cornerback position. I’m a fan of D.J. Reed and he’s been a revelation since he was claimed off waivers last season... but he is 5’9” and him as the CB1 of sorts is going to have severe limitations going up against wide receivers who will have a clear physical advantage over him. Tre Flowers has been inconsistent at best throughout this career and he’s the CB2. Sidney Jones is the main depth but he didn’t play in Week 1 and has had a hard time staying healthy throughout his brief time in the NFL. If I’m going to put a damper on the Colts win from the defensive side of things, it’s that Indy has a pretty limited quarterback and the Colts don’t have a great set of receivers (made less great with no TY Hilton). The schedule of WR quality at the very least gets tougher from there and certainly tough in the playoffs.
You can head over to Field Gulls to see Mookie’s questions with my answers.