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Seahawks at Dolphins preview: Russell Wilson dominating, defense disappointing, and Mother Nature’s impact

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the Seattle Seahawks Sunday during the NFL’s Week 4 slate of games. Dolphins fans have not seen the Seahawks in Miami in eight years, a Week 12 game back in 2012, with Miami winning 24-21. For a frame of reference on just when the Seahawks last made the longest road trip, outside of international games, in the league, the Dolphins saw touchdowns runs from Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, with a touchdown reception from Charles Clay and a game-high 129 receiving yards from Davone Bess. It has definitely been a minute since the NFC West team traveled to South Florida.

To get a closer look at a team Miami rarely sees, I turned to Mookie Alexander from Field Gulls, SB Nation’s Seahawks team site. He gave me some insight into the fast start of the Seahawks’ offense, some disappointment coming from the defense, and how Mother Nature could be a factor in this game.

Russell Wilson’s career-high in touchdown passes is 35. He is currently on pace for 75 this year. His single season-high in passer rating in 110.9 and his career rating is 102.3, while he currently has a 139.0 this season. What is going on with Wilson and the Seahawks passing attack?

Well I’m sure you’ve probably heard the announcers repeatedly utter the phrase “Let Russ Cook,” and I think it’s fair to say that Pete Carroll and the coaching staff is doing just what Seahawks Twitter has wanted for at least two years. Seattle is the most pass-heavy team in the NFL when adjusted for neutral game script situations, and that is unfathomable that this is even happening given their historic propensity to run the ball a lot. Wilson is also blessed with an offensive line that is actually pass-blocking well, ranking 5th in pass block win rate according to ESPN. He had the most time to throw among all quarterbacks in the win over the Cowboys. So you have improved play-calling from Brian Schottenheimer, improved pass protection, and then there’s Wilson himself. He is a much better pocket passer than he used to be and his accuracy is as good as it’s ever been. His chemistry with Tyler Lockett is something to behold and then you add in the deep threat ability of DK Metcalf and you have a passing attack that is just so difficult to deal with. A lot of Seattle’s offense in years past relied way too much on Wilson improvising something ridiculous instead of just running the play as intended. That’s not been the case this year or even last year. Wilson is a legitimate MVP candidate and while I know he’s inevitably going to have some less than stellar games this year, the credit should be shared by both the coaching staff and the players for making everything click.

I was actually surprised to see the Seahawks’ defense is giving up nearly 500 yards per game, with 430 of that coming through the air. They are also allowing 28.7 points per game. The stats say we are a long way from the Legion of Boom, but is this just a case of teams trying to keep up with the Seahawks’ offense, so they are throwing all over the field, or is there something Miami can exploit in Seattle’s defense?

This defense was pretty bad last season and the only improvement we’ve seen this season is the run defense, which is 4th in DVOA. I was a pretty strong advocate of firing DC Ken Norton Jr after last season’s loss to the Green Bay Packers and he’s not given me much reason to change my opinion. The pass rush remains a problem especially when they don’t blitz — they’ve blitzed a lot thanks to the Jamal Adams trade — but the secondary is just a complete mess. The pass rush woes don’t help them but they also don’t help themselves. Everyone (aside from Quinton Dunbar I suppose) has been picked on. Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers were consistently overwhelmed against Dallas, Jamal Adams struggled in pass coverage against the Patriots, and then you have the injuries to Dunbar and Marquise Blair, with the latter out for the season. Regardless of who has been in the lineup, there have been too many blown assignments, soft coverages, and just getting flat out beaten on simple routes.

Ryan Fitzpatrick can either look like an All-Pro or the worst QB in the world on any given week, so if he’s at his best or close to it then there’s every reason to believe Miami’s passing offense can go after Seattle’s secondary. They’ve allowed the most explosive passing plays in the league by a considerable distance and Miami has the ability to exploit that. If Fitz is in the mood to fling the deep ball, he may have great success.

As we close in on the quarter mark of the season, what has been a surprise to you? What has been your biggest disappointment thus far?

Biggest surprise has to be the Seahawks’ change in offensive philosophy. I was hugely skeptical that Carroll and Schottenheimer would let Wilson be in this much command of the game compared to the rushing attack. Maybe some of it is the running game has not performed particularly well, but ultimately it looks as if they looked at the numbers and the construction of this roster and realized that Russ has been more than ready to be the guy who propels this team to success. They’re still going to commit to a running game as the season goes along, but being proactive with “establishing the pass” instead of the nonsensical “establishing the run” has no doubt been a pleasant surprise and an awesome one.

Biggest disappointment? Oh you better believe it’s this secondary. This is “open season” in the worst way imaginable if you know what I mean. I can cut them some slack given Dallas and Atlanta at the very least have dangerous receivers and really good quarterbacks, while Cam Newton and the New England Patriots should have a good offense. But this is not an inexperienced secondary outside of nickel corner Ugo Amadi — everyone is either in a contract year or close to it. I never bought into the idea that the Adams trade would create “Legion of Boom 2.0.” but they have been absurdly terrible in ways that cannot be explained away by saying the pass rush is bad. There’s time to fix this and there are also easier opponents on the schedule down the line, but you don’t play easy opponents in the playoffs. Seattle’s secondary used to be the envy of the league, but now they’re among the biggest liabilities on the team.

The Seahawks, if they keep up the scoring as they have in the first three weeks, sure look like a Super Bowl contender. What do you expect from the Seahawks this season?

I picked them to make the NFC Championship Game. They’re 3-0 right now and ideally they’re going into the bye week at no worse than 4-1. They still have the Eagles, Giants, Jets, and Washington as an actual four-game stretch towards the end of the year. Making the playoffs is the minimum requirement and I think they’re well on their way to achieving that goal, but I absolutely expect them to at least make the NFC Championship Game. The defense might be the undoing of this team, which is hard to believe given the Legion of Boom era, but they otherwise have the offense to make a deep playoff run. Frankly speaking, Seattle hasn’t been particularly close to the NFC CG since the 2014 season, so now’s the time to make the most of Wilson’s otherworldly play.

There are some advantages Miami has this week, including the longest road trip in the league, the west-to-east travel for a 1pm ET/10am PT kickoff, and it will be close to 90 degrees at kickoff, with high humidity as thunderstorms are expected, though, on the field, it would appear Seattle is coming in as the better team. Are you confident in Seattle leaving Miami with a win? Do you see any way the Dolphins knock the Seahawks from the ranks of the unbeaten?

Interesting you bring up the 10 AM thing because the Seahawks have seemingly kicked that west-to-east struggle out of their system. They haven’t lost a 10 AM kickoff since 2016 and are indeed 9-0 in their last 9 games kicking off at that time. Now with that said, Wilson has had several of his worst games under rainy conditions and adverse weather conditions have way too often factored into poor Seattle performances. I’d consider Mother Nature an advantage for Miami as well as the fact that they appear to be the healthier of the two teams. I believe the Seahawks will win but am I confident? Absolutely not. Seattle plays way too many close games for me to be confident in that happening. This style of shootout football is not sustainable and it might lead to an upset loss. Miami gave Buffalo a tough time so I suspect that they could do something similar against the Seahawks. If bad Fitzpatrick shows up then you have no chance, but the defense has not earned anyone’s trust that they won’t keep the game close themselves.