After recovering from tough losses, the Bears and Seahawks will try to earn the first win of their respective seasons in a Monday Night Football showdown. To get the lowdown on this squad, I reached out to Kenneth Arthur, Editor of SB Nation’s Field Gulls for five questions.
Windy City Gridiron: 1. Doug Baldwin suffered an injury in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos. What’s his status and assuming he’s not able to go Monday night, what does that do to the rest of the receiver group?
Field Gulls: Baldwin missed all of preseason with an injury to his left knee and then suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday night and returned to the game to beat the Bears. Not that all sprained MCLs are the same, but pointing out that certain sprained MCLs don’t even cost you a game. Dont’a Hightower sprained his MCL last Week 1 and missed two games. Kevin Johnson suffered a sprained MCL in Week 2 and missed a few games. At the time I’m answering this question, all I can say is “I don’t know.” Maybe we’ll know more closer to game time, but I’d expect the team to maybe rest him.
That puts more targets on Brandon Marshall, who played well in his Seahawks debut and looks closer to his usual self than he did last year with the Giants. Jaron Brown, Tyler Lockett, and David Moore make out the rest of the group, and I have more confidence in the depth there than I have in years. If Baldwin had to miss an extended period of time, they might call up Keenan Reynolds from the practice squad, a guy who has drawn many Baldwin comps.
WCG: 2. In recent years, the Seahawks offensive line has been one of the worst groups in the league, which has limited the run game and forced Russell Wilson to do Russell Wilson things. Has that unit improved and if so, how does that shape what the Seahawks can do this season?
FG: Well, I would say it was mostly the pass blocking that was an issue up until last year. Then it was certainly run blocking too, but Chris Carson was successful behind the same o-line as Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. Those running backs deserve plenty of blame for the awful results on the ground. But yes, the unit has improved.
One, they started last year with Rees Odhiambo at left tackle and ended it with Duane Brown. They have a legitimate left tackle. Justin Britt is a solid starting center. The rest of the unit is still question marks and they were forced to start J.R. Sweezy at right guard after planning all summer to put D.J. Fluker there, but he hurt his hamstring during the third preseason game. Continuity be damned.
Two, Germain Ifedi will contain Khalil Mack. Call me a homer, whatever, I don’t care. Ifedi will have no issues with Mack or anyone else the Bears throw at him. Just kidding, Ifedi is going to have his entire family history erased by Mack. We might as well start editing the “In Memoriam” for Russell Wilson to play at halftime. I trust Brown on the left side, but Chicago’s gonna have its way with the right side and perhaps the most successful plays by Ifedi will be the ones he gets a holding penalty on. At least if Wilson survives those ones.
Editor’s note: He totally got me there. I thought “this man is crazy - Ifedi vs. Mack and he’s not worried?!”
WCG: 3. The Seahawks surprised some people by taking Rashad Penny in the first round of this year’s draft, and it’s hard to not want to draw comparisons with Marshawn Lynch. How has Penny looked and are the Seahawks truly going to run a split backfield with Chris Carson and Penny or are they waiting for Penny to take over?
FG: Hmmm, yeah. There are some similarities in height, weight, 40-time, and broken/missed tackles. I’d say Lynch was still a considerably better and more athletic prospect and I wouldn’t expect Penny to become Lynch. I think Chris Carson is going to be a better running back than Penny, but that’s also kind of a ridiculous statement; we’ve seen five games from Carson and one from Penny. But between the two, I think Carson is better. He’s a better runner and a much better pass blocker. The Seahawks split snaps on Sunday and I really hope they don’t do that again. Just give the ball to Carson. Penny’s time could come -- and it should -- but Carson gives them a better chance right now and I think Penny’s weaknesses showed in the loss at Denver. Maybe not though, it’s only one game. I do think Carson could be a Pro Bowl back if they give him enough time to do so.
Both players should be in the offensive gameplan for 2018, 2019, and 2020. I don’t know what happened to C.J. Prosise, they didn’t use him at all.
WCG: 4. Earl Thomas ended his hold out and played in the season opener. Given the major changes on the defense in recent years, Thomas is in some sense the last vestige of the great Seahawks defenses. What is his future with Seattle and are the fans prepared for life after Earl? Are there stars-in-waiting?
FG: I think this could be Earl’s last season with the Seahawks. After the game he said that he’s willing to return to the team next year but also said things that make him seem bitter that it came to this. But it’s not just about Earl leaving, I also think Seattle is hesitant to commit to him beyond 2018 and there’s a few reasons for that:
- Earl probably wants a raise, more like $12 million+ a year, setting a safety contract record. The Seahawks just made Kam Chancellor one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL and he’ll never play a down on that contract. In general, safeties are getting paid less while other positions set new high bars. Eric Reid is a free agent. George Iloka cost $1 million. The two sides might be way far apart on money.
- Earl is going to be 30 and the team may be focused on getting younger.
- Seattle has poured some other resources in at safety (Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill) and may be willing to test that out, but make no mistake: Earl missed 10 snaps against the Broncos and the defense was awful. His holdout, if it had lasted into the season, could have been disastrous for the Seahawks.
I think fans are prepared though. Most of them were willing to trade Earl for a second round pick, when polled. I think many would accept a third rounder. After his Week 1 game though, I’m sure many of them have changed their minds.
WCG: 5. Pete Carroll is no spring chicken and the Seahawks seem to be stuck between competing and rebuilding. What is Carroll’s future in Seattle and if the end is near, what are you most looking for in a replacement?
FG: I really don’t know what to say. I think Carroll plans to coach in 2019, at least. Beyond that, I try not to think about things. I don’t think NFL teams can plan a future beyond two seasons. Not that you don’t sign players for six years or whatever, I’m not saying that, but so much will change in two years. So much. The Eagles went from Chip Kelly to Super Bowl champions in two years. Jim Harbaugh went from three straight NFC Championship games to Michigan in two years. I have no idea and I wouldn’t even know how to begin thinking about the franchise after Carroll, it’s been entirely his identity since 2010. I don’t see any obvious replacement on the staff right now.
WCG: Bonus: My experience in the Pacific Northwest is to try and score as much smoked salmon as possible because it’s delicious and can’t be beat out there, but for Seattle specifically, what are the strength’s of the local food scene and what’s a must have for anyone traveling out that way?
FG: I haven’t lived in Seattle in 10 years, so I had to ask some of my writers.
John Fraley: Of course you can get just about every type of food in Seattle — such a cosmopolitan city, such a destination for the entire Pacific Rim. And the Asian cuisines are endless. But what I’ve found is most consistently satisfying around here: Indian food. The curry options are neverending, the spices are fresh-tasting even the thousandth time. It would be exceedingly hard to go wrong with any Indian dish. Don’t get the bbq, unless it’s Korean.
Sean Clement: Palisade Restaurant in North Seattle is my favorite. It’s a little spendy but you can eat looking out over the water and get some excellent food. If they’re in Tacoma the Korean and Vietnamese food is amazing.
Thank you to Kenneth and Field Gulls!