Seahawks midseason report card

The Seattle Seahawks reached the midpoint of their season with a 4-4 record, good for third place in the NFC West, two games behind the first-place Arizona Cardinals. Here’s how the Seahawks grade out (statistics are through Week 8):

Offense

Points per game: 20.9 (tied for 25th out of 32 teams in the NFL)

Yards per game: 353.1 (13th)

Seattle had a few positive things going for it offensively in the first half of the season. The Seahawks were second in the league in rushing yards per game (139.5), fifth in rushing yards per attempt (4.6) and fourth in passing yards per attempt (8.0). Although running back Marshawn Lynch has yet to get up to full speed (375 yards on 103 carries), Thomas Rawls emerged as a quality back-up (376 yards on 69 carries) and quarterback Russell Wilson continues to be a threat with his legs (303 yards on 58 carries). Wilson has also completed 68.8 percent of his passes, the highest percentage of his career, and new tight end Jimmy Graham is on pace for 76 catches and 900 yards.

But Seattle’s offense hasn’t been able to put it all together. The Seahawks’ offense found the end zone just 12 times in the first eight games, with the vaunted running game producing just three touchdowns. The problem was particularly evident in the red zone, where the Seahawks have converted just 29.4 percent of their red-zone opportunities into TDs, which ranks dead last in the NFL. Seattle’s new-look offensive line prevented Wilson from getting sacked in the final game of the first half, but Wilson was still sacked 31 times, which is far too many. Some of that is because of how long Wilson hangs onto the ball, but a lot of it is on the offensive line.

Grade: C-

Defense

Points allowed per game: 17.5 (third)

Yards allowed per game: 284.9 (second)

Seattle’s defense, which led the NFL in both fewest points and fewest yards allowed the past two seasons, appeared to be back to its usual dominating self as the first half came to a close. The Seahawks, who started the season slow by giving up 61 points in their first two games, held their past two opponents without a touchdown. Seattle also solved its fourth-quarter woes, shutting down the opposition in the fourth quarter after collapsing in the fourth in its previous two games. The return of strong safety Kam Chancellor following his holdout, which caused him to miss the first two games, provided a boost. Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have caused havoc in opposing backfields, and weakside linebacker K.J. Wright is in the midst of his best season.

While the defense appears to be back to full speed, there are a few causes for concern. The Seahawks have created just nine turnovers, including just three interceptions by the Legion of Boom secondary. While the fourth-quarter collapses have stopped, Seattle still managed to lose four of its first six games, despite holding a lead in the fourth quarter in each of those defeats. And though the defense dominated on the road the past two games, those efforts came against a San Francisco team that’s struggling mightily and a Dallas team without star quarterback Tony Romo.

Grade: B

Special teams

Seattle appeared to find its answer in the return game with the emergence of rookie Tyler Lockett, who returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns during the preseason, then followed up with punt and kickoff return TDs in the first three weeks of the season. However, Lockett’s effectiveness in the return game has dropped considerably since Week 3. Since then his longest punt return is 14 yards and his longest kickoff return is 21 yards.

The Seahawks’ kick coverage has been adequate. Opponents have been quiet on kickoff returns (23.6 yards, ranking 17th), and although Seattle allowed the largest punt return average in the league (16.1), it’s a small sample size as punter Jon Ryan allowed just 15 punt return attempts in the first eight games.

Kicker Steven Hauschka is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Hauschka made his first 17 field goal attempts and finished the first half 18-for-19, including 4-for-4 from 50-plus yards.

Grade: B

Coaching

Seattle’s coaching came under all kinds of questioning early in the season. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was having trouble figuring out how to get Graham, acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade specifically to address Seattle’s limitations in the passing game, involved. Graham has been more involved in recent weeks, but he still has yet to be a factor in the red zone. Meanwhile, new defensive coordinator Kris Richard came under scrutiny for the Seahawks’ inability to close out games, despite having just about everyone back from the defense that dominated the past two seasons.

Some of those issues have seemingly been dealt with. But how much of that was based on coaching adjustments, and how much of it is based on the quality of the opposition?

Grade: C

Overall

Seattle, which began the season with aspirations of reaching a third straight Super Bowl, looked to be in big trouble at 2-4. The Seahawks eased the crisis with their past two wins, and getting back to .500 at the midpoint helps clean the slate for the season half of the season.

But how good are these Seahawks? On the one hand the combined record of the teams Seattle lost to (St. Louis, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Carolina) was 24-4 through the first eight weeks, so the Seahawks didn’t suffer any bad losses, and many of those defeats were a play or two away from being victories. On the other hand, the combined record through eight weeks of the teams Seattle beat (Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Dallas) was 7-23, so the Seahawks don’t yet have a quality win. And the Detroit and Dallas games were nail-biters that easily could have gone the other way.

Seattle is still in position to make a run and get back into the playoff picture. However, each of the past two seasons the Seahawks’ route to the Super Bowl went through CenturyLink Field. For Seattle to any shot at home-field advantage this season, they probably have to be perfect the rest of the way.

Grade: C

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