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Seahawks midseason awards: Who’s the MVP? Most improved? Best play? Most troubling trend?

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 31, 2019

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson  signals from the line of scrimmage during the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signals from the line of scrimmage during the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Seahawks have reached halftime of the 2019 season, and at 6-2 they have their best midseason record since their Super Bowl championship season in 2013.

So, yes, a good start.

But things are about to get difficult. Much more difficult.

The Seahawks’ opponents in the first half of the season have a combined record of 26-34-1.

The combined record of their second-half opponents: 31-21-1.

That gives the Seahawks the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, according to playoffstatus.com. That’s owed largely to the strength of the NFC West. The Seahawks still have two games against the undefeated 49ers and a trip to Los Angeles to play the reloading 5-3 Rams. Arizona, at 3-4-1, isn’t looking like a pushover, either.

Before we get too far down the road and into the season’s second half, here is a look at some of the best and worst moments from the Seahawks’ first half with our midseason awards:

Most Valuable Player – Offense: Russell Wilson

Duh.

Not only is Wilson the Seahawks’ MVP, he is probably the NFL’s midseason MVP. The Seahawks made Wilson the highest-paid player in the league in the offseason, and eight games in he looks the part. Here’s how his stats compare to the other top candidates:

  • Russell Wilson: 17 TD, 1 INT, 68.4%, 115.5 rating, 8.5 yards/attempt, 3 rushing TD
  • Deshaun Watson: 16 TD, 5 INT, 69.3%, 105.7 rating, 8.1 yards/attempt, 5 rushing TD
  • Patrick Mahomes: 15 TD, 1 INT, 65.1%, 113.1 rating, 9.0 yards/attempt, 0 rushing TD
  • Aaron Rodgers: 16 TD, 2 INT, 65.4%, 106.7 rating, 8.2 yards/attempt, 1 rushing TD

Most Valuable Player – Defense: Bobby Wagner

Wagner remains as valuable as ever in the middle of the Seattle defense. On Sunday, he became the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler, and he ranks third in the NFL this season with 75 tackles through eight games. (K.J. Wright, with 68 tackles, also ranks in the league’s top 10.) Among Wagner’s top plays of the season: teaming with Jadeveon Clowney to force a key fumble in the win over the Rams; a fumble recovery at the 1-yard line and a break-up of a 2-point pass in the fourth quarter Sunday in Atlanta.

Best newcomer: Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney is the highest-graded player on the defense, with a score of 85.0 from Pro Football Focus. He hasn’t generated the sack numbers that most hoped, with two sacks so far. But he’s never been a traditional edge rusher; he’s typically been better in his career against the run, and he’s been disruptive for Seattle in that regard, all while facing regular double teams. On Sunday in Atlanta, Clowney had a sack and four QB hits. As ESPN’s Brady Henderson noted, Clowney “won” 14 of his 20 pass-rushes against the Falcons and overall ranks third among all NFL edge rushers in the Pass Rush Win Rate metric, according to Next Gen Stats.

Best rookie: DK Metcalf

Between his crazy combine numbers and a workout picture that went viral, Metcalf was already one of the most-hyped prospects entering the NFL draft. After the Seahawks traded up to get him late in the second round, he became the most-hyped Seahawks rookie of the Pete Carroll era.

Halfway through his first season, Metcalf has lived up to any reasonable expectation. His 17.5 yards per catch is tops on the team and eighth best in the NFL, on pace to shatter Joey Galloway’s 1995 franchise rookie record of 15.5.

Most Telling Stat (thumbs up edition): 3

Yes, three, as in Russell Wilson’s jersey number, but also this: The Seahawks rank as the third-most efficient offense in the NFL, according to the advanced metrics from FootballOutsiders.com. Based on traditional stats, the Seahawks are ninth in total offense – averaging 382.9 yards per game, up almost 30 yards per game from last season – and 11th in scoring, at 26 points per game.

Most Telling Stat (thumbs down edition): 4.1

The Seahawks have sacked opposing QBs on just 4.1% of their dropbacks, the fourth-worst rate in the NFL. Even the winless Dolphins (4.2) have a better rate. For comparison, the 49ers’ defense ranks No. 1 in sack rate – at 11.8%.

Most Troubling Trend: The disappearing first-round picks

L.J. Collier, the Seahawks’ first-round pick, has been a nonfactor on the defensive line. He has two tackles while playing in five games (and 65 total snaps). Collier’s slow start mirrors that of 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who has had an up-and-down first season and half in Seattle. To be fair: Injuries have been a factor for both players, with Collier missing several important weeks of training camp because of a sprained ankle. The Seahawks eased him back into the mix, but with Quinton Jefferson (oblique) uncertain this week, you’d think they’d want to push Collier into a greater role soon.

Best play: Wilson to Lockett (pick one)

How good was the throw from Wilson? And how good was the toe-tapping catch from Tyler Lockett? The first-quarter touchdown against the Rams ranks as the “most improbable” pass completion in the NFL in the past two years. That’s according to the NFL’s advanced statistical analysis, NetGen Stats, which calculated that when the ball left Wilson’s hand it had a 6.3% chance of being successful. As crazy as that was, we are starting to see similar Wilson-to-Lockett plays just about every week. Wilson had a perfect passer rating when he targeted Lockett in 2018 – and yet, improbably, they seem to be better together in 2019.

Most Improved: Shaquill Griffin

Not only is Griffin the most improved, but he’s proven to be one of the most important players on the defense, emerging as a legitimate CB1 in his third season. When Griffin reviewed film of his 2018 season, he saw “a robot” – and he didn’t like it. He committed to change this offseason, and the results are as good as the Seahawks could have hoped.

Best comeback: Chris Carson

All the angst everyone was feeling after Carson’s three lost fumbles in the first three games? Seems like ages ago now, doesn’t it? Carson hasn’t dropped the ball once in five games since then, and in those five games he’s averaging 25.2 touches per game and 118.2 yards from scrimmage, with three total TDs in that span. If you weren’t convinced of it last year, you certainly should be by now: Chris Carson is an elite NFL running back.

Most Important Coaching Decision: Letting Russell Wilson do Russell Wilson things

Fans were clamoring for it all offseason, and the Seahawks have indeed thrown the ball more often this season – 15% more, if you’re calculating at home. Wilson has career-best numbers in completion percentage, passer rating, yards per attempt and interception rate, and he’s on pace to attempt 500 passes – up from 427 last season. Also notable: Wilson was sacked a career-high 51 times in 2018. That number has been cut to 19 through eight games, and his 7.1% sack rate is the second lowest of his career. So shout out to an O-line that has battled through several injuries – and will be tested further with the loss of center Justin Britt.

Most Unpleasant Surprise: The pass rush

You know it’s not good enough. The Seahawks know it’s not good enough. We all know it’s not good enough. And if the Seahawks are going to stay afloat in the NFC West, the pass rush has to be better in the second half of the season.

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