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Five Questions with Field Gulls: Emergence of Frank Clark and Bradley McDougald, Earl Thomas playing some of the best ball of his career and more

Talking Seattle Seahawks with Field Gulls.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It is hate week.

It’s just... harder to muster much hate when the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are a combined 1-5 on the season and the teams possess two of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.

That won’t stop the hate from flowing on game day though.

To help get us ready, Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls was nice enough to help us get ready for the renewal of the Cardinals and Seahawks.

1. The turnover on defense has been the story, but they’re still top 15 in DVOA. How have the new players fit in and where are they still growing?

At first I read this as “the turnovers on defense has been the story” and that would also be true. The Seahawks have done an excellent job forcing turnovers this year -- eight in total, including seven interceptions -- and that is the main reason for a high-ranking in DVOA and why Seattle is nearly 3-0 despite some unbelievably bad play on offense and run defense. Those picks are why Seattle was still in those ballgames, though none of those guys with interceptions are “new” there are new roles.

Bradley McDougald has been the “Freddy Kreuger” to opposing quarterback’s dreams. He has two interceptions, tipped at least one ball for a pick, and a forced fumble that was recovered by the defense. He was signed to backup both safety spots last year and now he’s the starter at strong in place of Kam Chancellor. He’s not the same player as Kam but thus far he’s been arguably just as valuable; that’s not something that I would think is sustainable but in the first three games he’s played like a Pro Bowl caliber safety.

Shaquill Griffin has moved into Richard Sherman’s spot as the team’s top corner and he’s handling it like a champ. He has two interceptions and he’s containing all comers at receiver. I have little doubt that even if he’s never quite as “first ballot” as Sherman, he’ll still be a very, very good corner.

Mychal Kendricks has had to fill in for KJ Wright for two weeks and he’s played fairly well, especially given the circumstances of signing up with the team just two weeks ago. Frank Clark is now the main guy at pass rush and defensive end and he’s likely going to find himself in the 13+ sack category by season’s end as he looks for his first major long-term contract. En total, a lot of the names are actually the same, but they’ve moved around a bit and the philosophies have had to change a little, but with Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas, the league was probably aware this wasn’t a defense that was just going to fall apart.

2. Speaking of defense, for the 100th time I’m sure, what is going on with Earl Thomas?

He’s the starting free safety of the Seattle Seahawks. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career thus far. He’s not going to stop showing up for games because as he’s said, he doesn’t want to lose out on a single game check. The Seahawks aren’t going to trade him because nobody is going to give up the compensation that they want and they also expect to be in the playoff race. Seattle likely wants Earl Thomas to play out the contract that he signed and then re-evaluate with a slight chance that they will extend him in December like they have most players in the last years of their deals that they wanted to retain.

In short, nothing is going on with Earl Thomas that you will actually notice. It’s just noise. The only thing that matters is the football, and that’s the same.

3. Is Brian Schottenheimer as hated as Mike McCoy or do Seahawks fans trust him?

Far be it from me to presume anyone could be as hated as Mike McCoy or know what the feeling is like to score 20 points in three weeks while getting jack-nothing out of your $40 million QB and benching your star running back on the game’s most important play. Far be it from me indeed. But trust me, fans hate the hell out of Brian Schottenheimer here too and following Week 2, I’d say it was a pretty similar vibe to what you must be feeling right now. I think the Week 2 loss to the Chicago Bears might have been Wilson’s worst game as a pro (given the context of him now being a seven-year starter with tons of playoff experience) and his game-losing pick six could have been his worst throw. They didn’t run the ball despite all the offseason bologna about getting back to the run, and this also comes off a pretty poor performance by the offense in Week 1 in Denver. After Week 2, the team kept saying that Chris Carson was “gassed” and that’s why he only got six carries. Then he got ... 32 carries. What? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Nothing about Schottenheimer makes much sense to me.

I like some of what I saw against the Cowboys in Week 3, but I’d say Schottenheimer still has a long ways to go to prove that he’s improved as a playcaller, play-designer, personnel guru from where he was in his past stints as OC. Right now, he’s probably even more hated than Darrell Bevell ever was.

4. Who is helping Russell Wilson the most?

That’s a pretty abstract, non-specific question to ponder. I think the first answer that most people would go to is “Himself.” That’s sort of the reputation he’s had in the last couple years as the guy who has carried an offense with no run game, no offensive line support, and few reliable receiving options besides Doug Baldwin, who has missed virtually all of 2018. But Wilson has also scrambled himself into too many sacks and overthrown too many receivers to totally be blameless in this area.

I really like what rookie tight end Will Dissly has done. He’s one of the team’s leading receivers, he’s made some really big catches this season, and I assume he’s a reliable blocker because many were calling him the best blocking tight end in the draft. Seattle found him in the fourth round (they didn’t have to look far, he played his college ball in Seattle), and I’d say that they found one of the true gems of the 2018 class. It’s only three games, but at this point it would be a little weird if Dissly played this good for a few games and then just disappeared. Possible, but weird.

Duane Brown. Having a reliable left tackle was missing in 2016 and 2017 and now it’s back again. That’s huge.

And this past Sunday, the player who hurt him the most was Brandon Marshall. He had two huge drops on third down, otherwise Wilson’s numbers would have been even better and the offense may have gotten more scores on the board against Dallas.

5. Tom Cable is gone, how much has that departure helped the offensive line?

Really no idea. I was never on the bandwagon to blame all of the problems of the offense and the offensive line on one assistant coach. I don’t think he was 100% in charge of drafting those players or signing players and that it was his job to get the most out of day two and day three picks, or bottom-market free agents, and what are you meant to expect from the cheapest offensive line in the league? I’m sorry to people who needed to place their hate somewhere, but I wasn’t going to do all of that with Cable. He helped turn Max Unger and Russell Okung into Pro Bowl linemen. He turned J.R. Sweezy from a defensive lineman seventh rounder into a starting guard. He eventually turned Justin Britt from a tackle into an above-average center. He’s worked with UDFA tight ends like Garry Gilliam and George Fant into tackles who currently have jobs, albeit backups right now. Yeah, it’s not really my thing to assume I know how everything works in the front office or coaching rooms and to expect Cable to turn a cheap offensive line into a good one, especially when the assignment is to pass block for a QB who is difficult to keep track of in the pocket or outside the pocket.

The offensive line was still playing pretty poorly up to the Dallas game, which is also when D.J. Fluker returned to right guard, Sweezy moved over to left guard in place of Ethan Pocic, and Joey Hunt started for an injured Britt at center. We’ll see who the starting five are this week, but there appeared to be some improvement there, and new offensive line coach Mike Solari might deserve some credit for that. Adding Brown last season also helps.