The Seahawks absolutely pantsed Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Nobody is denying that, and few were happier than head honcho over at SB Nation's Field Gulls, Mr. Danny Kelly.
A big thanks to Danny for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure to follow Danny on Twitter (@FieldGulls), and if you get a chance, check out their X's and O's breakdowns right over here. Some of the best in the game.
Also, I may have answered some questions for them. Go check it out!
1> So, the Super Bowl, huh? Are there many structural changes to this team, or is Carroll keeping things pretty consistent from last year?
Yeah, Super Bowl... that was pretty cool. I like it. And yeah, for the most part, things will stay the same in Carroll's system, particularly on defense. The team returns most of the back-seven contributors from their historic run in 2013, but will have to replace defensive end Chris Clemons and big five-technique Red Bryant, along with nickel pass rushing defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. To do this, they signed free agent Kevin Williams and re-upped Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett, and will hope some of their younger players can be the ‘next man up' to fill in for those lost snaps. Overall, there are a few changes in store, but this is largely the same team we saw last season and they'll be playing essentially the same system.
On offense, the main difference will be the presence of one Percy Harvin, who missed all but one regular season game last year with a hip injury. Harvin does change the complexion of the way teams defend Seattle, and structurally speaking, some of the things they can do with Harvin's speed are pretty unique. Look for some fly sweeps to be incorporated into the game plan, along with some read-option packaged plays where Russell Wilson will have the option of throwing a bubble screen to Harvin, handing off to Marshawn Lynch on the read option, or keeping it himself.
2> An number of people, apparently including Earl Thomas, have indicated that the increase in penalties is in direct response to the methods on display by the Seahawks "Legion of Boom" last season. Is that a fair assessment to make? Is the idea that some teams will commit fouls every play knowing the refs won't flag it blown out of proportion?
Well, it seems pretty likely that the Seahawks prominent dismantling of Peyton Manning's historic pass offense might've influenced some of those in the competition committee to think that the NFL should get a little tougher on defensive holding and illegal contact (though if you watch the Super Bowl closely you won't find much of anything worth throwing a flag for in that area). The Seahawks have a physical style of defense that pushes the limits of the rule, but are simply executing the methods that they've been coached to employ within the way the game is called.
I don't blame Earl for feeling the team is being singled out, and they are the poster child for the idea that the referees cannot call everything, but the truth of the matter is that the Hawks didn't actually get away with a ton of egregious holding last year (look - they did some holding, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the media narrative would lead you to believe). Yes, they were taught to be savvy in their use of subtle hand fighting and contact after five yards, but it's severely overblown to say that they were holding on every snap. Also, it's worth pointing out that none of the Seahawks' infamous Legion of Boom (the starters) have been called for either penalty thus far in the preseason, nor were they featured in the NFL's video explaining the emphasis.
In reality, every team has corners that hold and tug on jerseys in coverage, and I think the goal here is that the NFL wants to nip things in the bud before everyone thinks they can come just short of tackling a receiver before anything gets called. It's behavior modification, and it's based on the idea is that the foul was not called nearly enough last season. We should note that the rules have not changed, but the referees have just been told to make it an emphasis in the preseason and beyond.
For the sake of everyone's sanity, I sure hope it's not too drastic of a change. Isn't there enough passing offense in the league already? Regardless, I think the referees have really gone overboard thus far.
3> Last year, there seemed to be some concern that the offensive line was stout on the outside, but susceptible up the middle. This year seems to be carrying the opposite perception. Will opponents be able to target Wilson and Lynch off the edge this year, or will that stabilize by week 1?
Well, the main question will be at right tackle, where rookie Justin Britt is slated to start. He's had a few ups and downs during the preseason so far - for instance, in one sequence week one, he got beat badly off the edge on one play and then the next, pancaked his opponent. He's more athletic than Breno Giacomini, the starter last year, so there's an upgrade there, but when you're talking about a rookie, there are going to be some trials. I think the Hawks will hope to put excellent blocking tight end Zach Miller on his side as often as possible to chip and release or help out in blocking not the defensive end, until Britt has his sea legs. The perception right now though is that he'll be adequate at least at the start of the year.
As for left tackle, Russell Okung, assuming he's healthy, has been a pretty good left tackle and could be due for a big season. His backup is second year pro Alvin Bailey, who has looked pretty decent in a starting role the first two games while Okung rehabbed an injured foot. Okung is due to make his first preseason start tonight.
4> Has there been anyone in camp who has really jumped out as a surprise, be they a rookie or a veteran stepping up their game?
It's hard to talk about training camp without bringing up Percy Harvin, who has looked as fast or faster than advertised and legitimately changes the way teams have to play defense. Harvin's been used all over the field at camp and when I've watched practices, he's visibly faster than anyone on the field, which is saying something when you're talking about the Seahawks' defense. Speaking of receivers, rookie Paul Richardson has also really impressed in camp thus far and fans and coaches seem very excited about how his deep-speed element will look in this offense.
On defense, second year corner Tharold Simon has made some waves - he was ejected from the first preseason game for throwing a punch (probably the wrong kind of attention), and then last week, had a 105-yard pick-six called back for defensive holding (it looked like he played it pretty well, though it was close). He had another play earlier in the game where he played a ball perfectly in the end zone and just couldn't make the interception. He's looked strong as a backup corner for this year, but potentially a long-term option opposite Richard Sherman. Another guy to watch is Brock Coyle, an undrafted free agent linebacker out of Montana that has impressed when he's been asked to fill in for an injured Bobby Wagner.
5> If you could take one player from the Bears and slot them into a starting spot in Seattle, who would it be and why?
I think it's a pretty easy choice, and if we're talking about a one-year prospect, I'd go with Brandon Marshall. There are few big receivers with the speed and body control that Marshall has and he's a deadly redzone target that I could see Russell Wilson targeting a lot. Moreover, he's the type of player (that big receiver) that Seattle fans (and Pete Carroll) have wanted for a long time. If we were talking about a long-term deal? I might go with Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, or Lamarr Houston. I'm also partial to Martellus Bennett, because he's seriously hilarious and having him and his brother Michael on the same team here in Seattle would be a lot of fun.
5a> Please predict a score for this meaningless game.
Hah, I'm going to go with 31-14 Seahawks. Seattle's tough at home and they get really amped up for these preseason games.
Thanks again, Danny!