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Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: Handing out grades for the Seahawks’ first quarter of the 2023 season

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Dre'Mont Jones on Oct. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J.   (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – In the new 17-game world of the NFL, the season is no longer nicely split into quarters.

But Seattle’s bye after the first four games – which traditionally would have been the first quarter of the season – made for a convenient time to assess what we’ve seen so far.

So, before the Seahawks begin the rest of their season Sunday at Cincinnati, let’s pause to hand out some sort-of quarterly grades for a team that’s 3-1 and in second place in the NFC West but would also be firmly in the NFC playoff picture if the season ended today – important context for the grades themselves.

Quarterback

The disaster that was the Rams game means a lot of stats for everyone are somewhat skewed. But in general, Geno Smith’s numbers are pretty similar to last season, indicating that there has been none of the regression some feared. His passer rating is 97.8 compared to 100.9 last year (the drop-off basically due to the Rams game), and his completion percentage of 68.3 isn’t far off last year’s 69.8. As important as anything is that he has just one turnover on an interception that didn’t appear to be his fault. The big picture is that Seattle has scored 27.8 points per game, ranking sixth in the NFL, which is ultimately the biggest job for any QB.

Grade: A-minus

Running back

The Seahawks are just 17th in the NFL in rushing offense at 108.5 yards per game, which would be Seattle’s lowest since the 2017 season (101.8), which was the last year for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and after which Pete Carroll recommitted to the run. But that’s hardly been the fault of Kenneth Walker III, who ranks third among running backs who have played just four games in broken tackles with seven and has five rushing touchdowns (Seattle had just 12 last year as a team). Zach Charbonnet has impressed in limited time, averaging 5 yards per carry. There have also been no fumbles.

Grade: A-minus

Receiver

There’s been a little bit of a mixed bag here. DK Metcalf has battled through a rib injury to turn in numbers similar to those of his career – Metcalf’s 4.5 receptions per game are just off his 4.6 career average and his 67.0 yards per game is just ahead of his career average of 64.1. Smith has a blistering 144.2 passer rating when targeting him. Tyler Lockett’s receptions per game average of 4.2 is right with his career average of 4.3, though his yards per game of 39.3 is quite a bit off his career average of 55.4, as is his yards per catch of 9.2, which is 4 yards off his career average. But much of that is due to getting just 10 yards on two catches against the Rams. And it might not be time to worry too much about Jaxon Smith-Njigba – he’s just 21, after all. But everyone obviously is hoping for a lot more going forward than the 12 catches for 62 yards, with a long of 16, that he has.

Grade: B

Tight end

Noah Fant is quietly having a pretty productive year, second on the team in receiving yards with 160 and first with an average per catch of 16 (swayed greatly by the 51-yarder against the Giants). Colby Parkinson and Will Dissly have also been consistent catching and blocking as Seattle’s TE group has seemed to live up to its billing as one of the best in the NFL.

Grade: A-minus

Offensive line

Give offensive line coach Andy Dickerson the assistant coach of the year award for the first “quarter” of the season for the job he’s done juggling things up front. Only two projected starters have started all four games (center Evan Brown and guard Damien Lewis), and Seattle has started three line combinations and given snaps to 11 offensive linemen due to injuries.

Grade: B-minus

Defensive line

The sack total (16, tied for fifth in the NFL) and the run defense (3.18 yards allowed per carry, best in the league) speak loudly to the improvement up front. Sunday’s game at Cincinnati will tell a lot more than the past two games, against teams with struggling offenses and beat-up offensive lines. But it’s hard to argue the results. Jarran Reed has been everything the team hoped and more returning to the nose tackle spot. Mario Edwards Jr. has been a revelation at one of the end spots, while Dre’Mont Jones has shown signs the past few weeks of living up to his contract. Depth still feels like a potential issue if anyone gets hurt. But so far, so good.

Grade: B

Linebacker

Did everyone really expect Bobby Wagner to play this well at age 33 and after a year away? Maybe everyone really did. But realistically, Seattle appearing to get back the Wagner of old and not an old Wagner feels like a gamble won. His 50 tackles are on pace to set a team record. Jordyn Brooks also seems to have benefited, giving Seattle far better ILB play than a year ago. As for the outside backers, Uchenna Nwosu has been solid and Boye Mafe has taken the second-year leap the team hoped with two sacks, almost matching his rookie year total of three.

Grade: A-minus

Secondary

Here’s a tough spot to assess. The secondary looked terrible against the Rams, but that was without Devon Witherspoon and also a pass rush. The overall stats are obviously not good – Seattle ranks 30th in pass defense allowing 280 yards per game. But that includes a lot of garbage-time yards against Carolina. And pick-sixes from the secondary turned the tide in both the Lions and Giants games. Until the full secondary – with Witherspoon joined by Jamal Adams as one of the safeties and a healthy Riq Woolen – appears, it might be premature to pass much of a judgment. But Seattle might have all three healthy and ready for Sunday against Cincinnati and what looks to be a true test.

Grade: B-minus

Special teams

The one downside here? Jason Myers has been a bit more erratic than you’d like, hitting 9 of 13 – more misses than last season when he made the Pro Bowl going 34 of 37. Three of the misses are from 40 or longer, including going 0 for 2 from beyond 50. That was his strong suit last year when he hit all six from 50 or longer. Those are obviously lower percentage kicks and the hope is maybe that’s just a little regression-to-the-mean blip. But punter Michael Dickson is leading the NFL in both gross punting average (53.5) and net (48.8), and Seattle has edges in both its kickoff (25.3-21.3) and punt (16.4-3.5) return averages.

Grade: B-minus

Coaching

It was tempting to wonder where things were headed after the loss to the Rams. But Carroll has often been at his best when adversity hits, and he deserves credit for getting the Seahawks to move on quickly and win a game at Detroit few figured they would – and which looks like a win that will prove pivotal to the team’s playoff hopes. Seattle is 43-19 following a loss since 2012 (69.4%), best in the NFL, and is 3-1 with a roster including, as of this week, 32 first- or second-year players – third most in the NFL

Grade: B-plus