Ed: Tell us about Geno Smith. He’s playing fantastic football. How is he doing it, and did anyone see this coming?
John: Smith is simply doing exactly what he’s supposed to as a quarterback. He’s making the right reads, getting the ball to the right receivers and delivering it in rhythm. When he needs to he’s making the necessary adjustments at the line pre-snap, and it’s obvious that he took advantage of spending five seasons behind Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson to learn the nuances he never had a chance to pick up when he was thrust into action as a rookie.
His performance has been spectacular, and while there were certainly some who were optimistic about his upside, it seems doubtful that anyone saw a season as productive as this one coming. The biggest downside to this surprise is what it could potentially cost to retain his services in the offseason, but that’s an entirely different conversation that will continue until his play either craters or the offseason arrives.
Ed: The Seahawks are not a team usually on our radar. Can you tell us about some of the impact players we might not know much about?
John: On offense, the biggest weapons have been Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, but the tight ends have been a key area from which the team has received production this season. It remains to be seen whether Metcalf will be available this weekend after injuring his knee in the Week 7 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, making Will Dissly, Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson all the more important. When those three have produced, the offense has moved the ball up and down the field. When defenses have been able to slow that trio, things have quickly come to a halt.
On defense, the secondary has two rookies playing at corner in Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant at the nickel. Those two have far exceeded the expectations of most in terms of their ability to make impact plays immediately at a position where youngsters often struggle. That’s not to say those two haven’t had their struggles in coverage or with penalties at times so far this season, just that what they are doing as rookies has been amazing. One other under the radar name on defense for the Hawks has been Uchenna Nwosu, signed as a free agent from the Chargers in the offseason. There’s a strong argument to be made that he has been the best player in the defensive front seven so far this season, as he’s tied for the team lead in sacks and PFF credits him with as many pressures as all the other linebackers on the roster combined.
Ed: If you could take any player off the Giants’ roster NOT NAMED Saquon Barkley and put him into Seattle’s lineup, who would it be? Why?
John: Dexter Lawrence. He’s been a monster for that defense, and in the system the Seahawks are using on defense this season, a game wrecker in the middle would be a phenomenal addition. That’s not to minimize the contributions Seattle has received from its defensive line this season, but when given the choice between a solid 35-year old and a (soon-to-be) 25-year old, it’s a no brainer.
As far as Barkley, not to be dismissive of most Seattle fans would likely state that their preference at running back would be for rookie Ken Walker after what he has done through the first two starts of his career over Barkley. Whether or not that optimism is warranted remains to be seen, but so far Hawks fans are ecstatic with what he has done on the field.
Ed: Before this year, some thought perhaps 71-year-old Pete Carroll might be reaching the end of the line in Seattle. How much longer can he keep going? How much longer should he keep going?
John: Players love Carroll and the energy he brings, and while there were certainly questions about the amount of talent on the roster this offseason, there was no doubt that Carroll would get his players to play hard. That has shown through during the first seven weeks, and while the schedule at least appears to get more difficult over the back half of the season, the NFC is so weak the Hawks have a fighting chance to sneak into the playoffs.
As far as how much longer he should keep it going, the answer to that question is that the most likely ending comes when he steps away on his own terms when he’s ready. My guess is that means when it’s no longer fun to coach, and with a core group of young players around which the team could be able to build around for the future, it could be a long time. This is particularly true if the success from the first couple months of the season continues through the rest of this year and into the future.
Ed: The Giants have had a winning formula. Run the football, get just enough out of the passing game, control the pace of games. Keep the score fairly low, and keep it close. Win games by making more plays and fewer mistakes than their opponents in the fourth quarter. Can that work against Seattle? How do you see this game unfolding?
John: That formula can work against Seattle, but the key to it will be stopping Geno Smith and the offense early. In all four of the Seahawks wins this year they have jumped out to a first half lead and then held on for the victory in the second half. When the Hawks have had to play catch up in the second half, they have not been able to come away victorious. For the Giants that likely means working to slow the Hawks offense in the first half, which could be significantly easier if Metcalf is unable to play due to his knee. He did not practice Wednesday, so that definitely bears watching in the coming days.