Seahawks vs. Eagles: Four things to watch
1) Russell Wilson
The Seahawks have been referred to lately as a one-man team. While Russell Wilson doesn't play defense, one could see why someone might say that. Wilson has been a machine this season putting up MVP type numbers with five games to go.
Wilson's ability to keep plays alive by scrambling out of the pocket has become an invaluable resource for an offense that doesn't get any help from it's running backs. While Wilson is making things happen, he is also making Pete Carroll's heart beat a little faster. "We certainly don't want him running the ball and getting hit, you're not seeing him run a bunch of lead plays and stuff, but really it goes back to Russell's awareness," Carroll said this week. "He knows how to do this, and I'm counting on it. I got mad at him one time in the game last week. I jumped him: 'What're you doing,' you know, I thought he tried too hard on a play, and of course he said 'Well, I was going for the sticks,' yeah right, well. We have small differences on that and usually he does it exactly right, but I got after him last weekend."
Wilson will likely be on the run this weekend against an Eagles defense that ranks sixth in the NFL. The main objective for Wilson is to extend some plays and not put himself in jeopardy of getting hurt. As for Wilson being a one-man show, consider this, he accounts for 83 percent of Seahawks scrimmage yards this season.
2) Bobby Wagner
While Russell Wilson is far and away the offensive MVP of this team, Bobby Wagner is no doubt the defensive standout. Wagner's acrobatic interception last week against the 49ers was something to behold. I asked Wagner to describe what happened after the game in Santa Clara, in a nutshell, he said he wanted the ball more than the receiver so he took it.
One reason for Wagner's impressive season, he's comfortable and can be creative from his linebacker spot. Asked about Wagner and his ability to anticipate plays Pete Carroll had this to say this week, "When guys have been through the system long enough and they really have the command of the system and they've mastered the expectations of the technique and the principles and the reads, then they can take themselves to a point where they can start to improvise and they can innovate with their thoughts and what they're seeing. That's what you see in a guy like Bobby, who has been in our system so long, that he now has the freedom to make the plays that he sees."
As difficult as it will be for the Seahawks to adjust to the loss of Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor, they still have one of the best linebackers in the NFL, a linebacker that has his hopes set on someday earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, "Yeah, I have definitely set it as a goal. It's always been a goal of mine wanting to win. I mean I think you look at all the players that they consider greatest linebackers to play like Ray Lewis, Ken Norton, Brian Urlacher and those guys. You see what they got to accomplish during their careers and so you want to hope that your career kind of does the same, if not better than that. It is definitely something I would be honored with but I feel like as long as I keep doing what I am doing, it will work itself out."
3) Running backs who wear Seahawks jerseys
It would be nice to reference one running back in particular for the Seahawks, but as we head into the 12th game of the season, a single running back has yet to emerge as the go-to running back since Chris Carson was injured in week four against the Colts.
The Seahawks are ranked 20th in the NFL in rushing offense with 1,132 yards as a team, 401 of those yards, more than a third, belong to Russell Wilson. Eddie Lacy saw significant action in San Francisco last week carrying the ball 17 times for 46 yards with a long of 11 yards, still, there is so much room for improvement from a run game that hasn't had a 100-yard rusher since Thomas Rawls ran for 161 yards last season in the playoffs against the Lions.
There are many underwhelming statistics surrounding the Seahawks ground game this season, the one that really stands out: Seattle has only one rushing touchdown by a runningback this year."I think it says how we've been able to run the ball this year because you know how we've been able to in the past and you know where we've been with rushing the football, so I think it just speaks to that," said Darrell Bevell this week. " We're continuing to try to do different things, we're continuing to try and run the ball, but we know what we need to do as well. The object is to score points, which we've been able to do, so it's really by any means necessary. If we can run it in, we'll do it, and if we have to throw it in, we'll get it in that way."
As the Seahawks work to "figure" things out this week before the Eagles come to town, one thing is likely, you will see more of JD McKissic this week. "Well, I mean we continue to add more and put more on his plate," said Darrell Bevell when asked about McKissic this week. "We've asked him to do a lot of things; he's in a lot of plays, we're trying to do right by him and give him the right things, but he's handled everything really well. As of right now, he hasn't shown that there isn't anything that he can't handle, so we'll just continue to feed him."
4) Nick Vannett
Nick Vannett has been waiting his turn and last week in San Francisco he finally had his opportunities. Luke Willson left the game in Santa Clara with a concussion, that immediately put Vannett into a bigger role with the Seahawks offense and he delivered.
Eleven catches, that's all Vannett had on his resume coming into last weekends game, and he ended up with four catches against the Niners for a career high 29 yards receiving and his firstt career TD which led to the inevitable and entertaining Seahawks Tight Ends and Friends Dance Party.
Along with having his busiest day as an NFL Tight End Vannett also earned some trust with Russell Wilson. Look for that trust to grow as well as Vannett's role with the offense in this month of December.