The Seahawks are hoping to accomplish three things Monday against Minnesota: (1) Get their 10th win; (2) take over first place in the NFC West; and (3) play a complete game for the first time all season.
That’s right: The Hawks are 9-2 — the fourth time they have at least nine wins in the first 11 games — and they still have not put together a total team game. The offense carried them in most of their first seven wins, and the defense has led the way (with eight takeaways) the past two games.
Monday, against surging Minnesota, with some major playoff positioning possibly on the line, would be a good time for both Seattle sides to show up.
As we wait for that big matchup, here’s how each position has done so far — and what it might mean for the future of the roster:
So far: The game in Philly notwithstanding, Russell Wilson has played his best season. He is on pace to match his team record with 35 TD passes and 8.3 yards per attempt while hitting 4,000 passing yards for the third time. And he has been excellent in the clutch. He was just 2 for 7 in comeback attempts in 2018, but he has five game-winning drives this season. He needs to finish strong against some tough defenses to make it his best season.
The future: Wilson has found a good sync with Brian Schottenheimer, so there is no reason to expect any less than we have seen this season.
So far: Rashaad Penny’s career day (129 yards, 58-yard TD run) was a reminder of how good the depth is here when both backs are healthy. Chris Carson has had a star-crossed season, rushing for 879 yards (eighth in the NFL) but fumbling eight times (most by any NFL running back). The Hawks reportedly could have traded Penny to Detroit for a third-rounder, but they wanted a second. That speaks to how disappointed they were in his preparation for this season. If he keeps playing like he did in Philly, though, it seems unlikely they will seek to trade him in the offseason — especially now that he seemingly understands how to eat and prepare like a pro.
The future: The Hawks seem unlikely to want to give Carson a big extension after this season (2020 is the last of his rookie deal). The most he is worth is maybe $5 million a year. Penny is signed for two more seasons, so they probably will let Carson try to earn a new deal with another year of this 1-2 punch.
So far: Tyler Lockett is one of the most reliable receivers in the NFL, so having him hobbled is a blow to Wilson and the passing game. D.K. Metcalf has been very inconsistent — Wilson has to put the ball in his bread basket or it usually will not be caught (54 percent catch rate). Josh Gordon could become a factor in the final month and playoffs, and Malik Turner has turned into a contributor as Jaron Brown gets deactivated weekly now, so Wilson has some options.
The future: Lockett will remain the No. 1 and Metcalf will be expected to figure out how to catch. Brown won’t be back, and it would be surprising if Gordon stuck around (unless it’s for cheap). John Ursua probably will get his chance in 2020.
So far: The Hawks started the season with Will Dissly and Nick Vannett, but those guys have been gone for weeks. Jacob Hollister, who started out on the practice squad, has taken over the lead role and run with it. “Man, he’s playing good ball,” Pete Carroll said. “He’s just doing such a good job. I’m so fired up for Jake. Talk about a great pickup.”
The future: Unfortunately, Dissly cannot be counted on after serious injuries have shorted both of his NFL seasons. Hollister has played very well as the new No. 1 and definitely should be tendered (maybe at the $3.3 million second-round level). Ed Dickson won’t be back, and the team surely will look to upgrade over Luke Willson, too. This might be a top target in the draft.
So far: The Hawks have used five starting combinations, which is par for them. They have lost Justin Britt (ACL) and Ethan Pocic (back) to IR, though Pocic is likely to return for Week 15. Some fans have ripped Britt over the years, but he is clearly better than Joey Hunt, who has been bull-rushed by bigger D-linemen for easy sacks of Wilson in the past two games as the Hawks have given up 11 sacks. This veteran unit has more tough matchups coming — against the Vikings’ great pass rush, Aaron Donald’s Rams and the 49ers again. It needs to button up.
The future: Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Mike Iupati will all be free agents. Duane Brown, Fluker, Britt and Pocic all are scheduled to return (and there is no reason to cut Britt, especially absent a viable replacement). Jamarco Jones, who was a great two-game fill-in for D.J. Fluker, and perhaps Phil Haynes will ascend to starting spots in 2020. Fant would seem to be the top priority among the three free agents, perhaps battling Jones for the starting right tackle spot. Maybe Iupati returns for cheap, too, though the Hawks might prefer the younger Haynes at left guard. Ifedi likely will be allowed to leave. So the 2020 line could be Brown, Haynes, Britt, Fluker, Jones/Fant, with Pocic the backup interior lineman. Hunt could earn his 2020 spot by his play over the rest of this season.
So far: It took over half the season for this unit to get it going — and it still has some health questions with Jadeveon Clowney (sports hernia) and Jarran Reed (ankle). But both Clowney and Reed had breakout games against the 49ers in Week 10, and Ziggy Ansah is starting to become a contributor after finally regaining much of his weight and strength. Quinton Jefferson, who missed a couple of games, has been a stalwart when healthy, and Rasheem Green has flashed in several games (including in Philly in Week 12). Al Woods and Poona Ford have anchored the league’s 10th-ranked run defense. First-rounder L.J. Collier has basically had the same kind of redshirt year Green had last season — not contributing at all. Instead, Shaquem Griffin has suddenly emerged in the pass rush. If Clowney and Reed get healthy, this crew should continue to get better into the playoffs.
The future: Clowney’s destiny is the biggest question. Will the cap-rich Hawks be willing to pay him $20 million a year? They should. Reed, Ansah, Jefferson and Woods also will be free agents. Ansah almost surely won’t be back; hopefully he plays well in the final month and playoffs and earns a nice deal from another team for Seattle’s comp purposes. Reed’s value took a big hit with his six-game suspension and ankle issue, so the Hawks might be able to re-sign him for less (at least for a year); the tag is also an option, but the Hawks probably don’t want to pay even $12 million at this point. Jefferson would be nice to bring back, but some team might be willing to overpay him (he might be worth up to $5 million a year to the Hawks).
So far: The Hawks have played base defense more than almost any team this season, leaving Mychal Kendricks on the field over two-thirds of the time. He has been victimized in the passing game a few times, but he has otherwise been a solid player. He had a season-high 11 tackles (all solo) against Philly (his former team). With Kendricks, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, the Hawks have stellar experience in the middle — and it has paid off in recent games especially.
The future: Kendricks’ status is still up in the air because his sentencing has been delayed until after the season. Even if he is available for 2020, the Hawks might choose to go with Cody Barton rather than pay Kendricks $4 million again. Then again, they have more than enough cap space for a few middling deals like that. The steady and savvy Wright, who had 12 tackles in Philly and is on pace for a career-high 138, should be back to finish off his two-year deal, too.
So far: Quandre Diggs’ arrival has steadied this unit and created a real ballhawking defense. The veteran Diggs has forced two turnovers in his two games, and he has freed Bradley McDougald to play “strong” (he picked off a pass in Philly). Shaquill Griffin has played well all season, and Tre Flowers just got his second interception. That’s a solid quartet, and Marquise Blair can learn behind Diggs and McDougald. Jamar Taylor had an inconsistent 10-game run and has been replaced at nickel by Akeem King and Ugo Amadi.
The future: The four current starters are all signed through at least 2020. Blair figures to replace McDougald by 2021. Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson probably will be fighting for one spot next year, and the Hawks will need to find a third corner (probably in the draft). They also will need to decide whether Griffin merits an extension (around $10 million a year) ahead of his final season.
So far: It has been a shaky year for Jason Myers and Michael Dickson, who both have shanked their share. Myers is just 5 for 10 from 40-plus, but he bounced back from a terrible game against Tampa with the winning kick at San Francisco. Dickson seems to have one dud a week, but he largely has punted well the past six or seven games. He is fourth in the league in punts placed inside the 20 (23), but he also has the second-most touchbacks (five) and his net (40.2) is third-worst (partly because of the inside-the-20 number).
The future: This trio, including Tyler Ott, will be together for three more years (unless Myers really tanks and forces Seattle to cut him).