The weekly AP Pro32 Power Rankings for the NFL has the Seattle Seahawks No. 8 overall and fifth among NFC teams.
The 12 distinguished voters listed Green Bay, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Carolina ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC. The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs rank No. 1 after the first five games.
Some good teams are in their way if the 3-2 Seahawks hope to reach another Super Bowl. Seattle heads to its bye week with a few question marks, most on offense. Here are three areas that need improvement on offense if the team hopes to be a true championship contender this season:
The offensive line
Even in the Super Bowl seasons of 2013 and 2014, the offensive line was the weakest link of the team, but never this big a weakness.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has started 85 consecutive games. The chances of him continuing that streak the rest of this season are dubious, considering how much punishment he takes.
Wilson has been sacked 13 times. That doesn’t really tell the story because of his uncanny ability to avoid being tackled behind the line. He has been hit 43 times. Only Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer (50 hits) has been hit more, but Palmer moves in slow motion compared to Wilson.
Wilson was hit 111 times last season when he was playing on a badly sprained ankle and lost a lot of his mobility. At this rate, he would end up with 138 hits while playing on two good legs, if he makes it that far.
Something needs to change; the Seahawks are exploring their options. They brought in former Pro Bowl tackle Branden Albert on Monday, but he left without any deal being reached.
Several reports say Seattle is interested in making a trade for Houston Texan left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out for a new contract. Brown is scheduled to make $9.4 million this season and $9.7 million in 2018. None of it is guaranteed.
Even if the Seahawks brought Brown in for one season at that rate, they would need to release someone who is making big money.
Adding to the O-line problems is left guard Luke Joeckel, probably the team’s second best player up front, having arthroscopic surgery Thursday to clean up problems from his previous knee surgery. He likely will miss the New York Giants game Oct. 22 and possibly more.
The Seahawks have a lot of options to replace him, including Mark Glowinski (the 2016 starter at left guard), rookie Ethan Pocic, Matt Tobin or Jordan Roos. Those aren’t particularly good options.
Seahawk coach Pete Carroll was asked Monday about the progress of the offensive line.
“We’re getting better and we’ve made improvement,’’ said Carroll. “We are feeling guys out and learning what their strengths are.”
The running game
Obviously, this goes hand-in-hand with offensive line play, but consider this stat:
Wilson has rushed for 154 yards on 30 carries for a 5.1-yard average. With Chris Carson now on injured reserve, the other four running backs for the Seahawks — Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise – have rushed for a total of 156 yards on 50 carries for a 3.1-yard average.
Rawls, Lacy and McKissic combined for only 39 yards on 19 carries against the Rams last weekend. Lacy, who was signed in the offseason, has been a disappointment. Rawls hasn’t looked like the same back he was two years ago as a rookie.
The Seahawks aren’t going to be the power running team they were with Marshawn Lynch, but they have to produce more quality rushing yards than they have so far.
More misdirection and read-option plays could help. Better zone blocking up front also would help.
The Seahawks have not scored a first-quarter touchdown this season and have only nine points in the first 15 minutes of the first five games. In four of their five games, they scored 49 of 64 points when they were behind.
At some point in all five games the Seahawks were behind. They were behind 17-6 at Green Bay, 9-6 to the 49ers, 30-14 at Tennessee, 15-10 against the Colts, and 10-0 in the first half against the Rams.
The Seahawks won three of those games, but constantly having to make up ground after starting slowly puts pressure on both sides of the ball and will lead to mistakes in the long run.
The team clearly plays at a higher level with its back against the wall. That’s commendable. It’s also a difficult way to win consistently.