For this week's edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," we reached out to Bob Condotta, Seahawks beat writer for the Seattle Times. Here are five questions we posed to Bob in advance of Sunday's Vikings-Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field:
1. What impact, if any, do you think Percy will have in this game, based on what you've observed as far as the progress of his health, his fit in Darrell Bevell's offense, his motivation to play his former team and any chatter you've heard about the speed with which the team is willing to move him along?
If he does play, I would expect they would ease him in a little bit, maybe 20 plays or so. He hasn't played in any game in more than a year and hasn't obviously played for the Seahawks. So I would doubt they would give him a totally full plate right off the bat. I am sure he would be highly motivated to want to make his season debut against his former team, though as of yet we have yet to be able to speak to him about that. As far as how he will fit into the offense, Bevell has said all along that he envisions it being similar to how he was used when each of them were in Minnesota --- primarily as an inside receiver, but sometimes out of the backfield and lined up outside, as well.
2. Describe the job Bevell has done utilizing quarterback Russell Wilson's strengths, the weapons around him and whether or not he's been able to keep defenses off-balance with his play-calling. Also, from what you're hearing and from talking to Darrell, do you think he's ready to be a head coach and will he get some interest next offseason?
Bevell generally gets high marks from those who watch the team for how he has constructed an offense that takes advantage of Wilson's running, while not relying on it so much that it puts him at too much risk. This year has been a little uneven offensively at times because of all the injuries --- the starting OL has played just one game together, Sidney Rice is out for the year, Harvin has yet to play, Zach Miller has been hurt, etc. Other than the opener, they have almost always had to adjust to some injury issue somewhere. But at the moment, Wilson's passer rating is even higher --- 101.8 --- than the franchise record of 100.0 it was last season. Bevell has not publicly discussed head coaching hopes. But having never met an assistant who didn't want to be a head coach eventually, I'd be surprised if he were any different. He was rumored to be on a couple of lists last season (including Arizona's and Chicago's) but was then given an extension and raise by the Seahawks through 2014. Contracts, though, are made to be broken when it comes to getting an NFL head coaching job, and it's hard to imagine he won't be a hot candidate after this season.
3. Describe what happened in the preseason with Antoine Winfield. How poorly did he play, how much of a surprise was it that he didn't make the team and how much guaranteed money did the team have to eat when it released him?
I don't think Winfield really played all that poorly. But what's important to remember is some of the context of when he signed --- namely, that Seattle needed someone to replace Marcus Trufant and wasn't sure what they had in Walter Thurmond, a promising young player who played only eight games the past two seasons due to injury. Thurmond, though, showed during the OTAs and mini-camp that he was healthy, and that changed the dynamic greatly. Thurmond simply beat out Winfield for the job. Seattle also had other young corners it wanted to keep for the long term, so if Winfield wasn't going to be the primary nickelback this year --- which he wasn't once Thurmond proved he was good to go --- then it made sense to keep the younger, cheaper players with more long-term potential to help the team than Winfield.
4. How vulnerable are the Seahawks against the run? Which is closer to their identity against the run, giving up 200 yards in back-to-back games against St. Louis and Tampa Bay or giving up 64 against the Falcons?
That's been a really weird thing that seemingly cropped up out of the blue in the games against St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Prior to those games, Seattle was sixth in the NFL against the run, notably holding the 49ers to 100 yards in the 29-3 win in week two (with much of that yardage coming on a long Colin Kaepernick run in garbage time). Then came the Rams and Bucs games, in which both rushed for 200 or more. Seattle talked about getting back to basics against the Falcons, and it also helped that its linebacking corps was healthy and playing well again, and statistically got the job done holding Atlanta to 64. The caveat there is that Atlanta is the worst rushing team in the NFL, at 64 yards per game. So Minnesota and Adrian Peterson will be a little truer of a test.
5. If you had to describe 2-3 traits that you've noticed that explains why so many teams misjudged Russell Wilson so badly on draft day, what would they be? And how does he look this year compared to last year?
1, His height. 2, His height. 3. His height. I really think that's all there really was to not like about him. He'd proven to be a winner, tough, an accurate passer, great athlete. But teams were simply scared off by his height and the thought that he would always be limited, that he couldn't be successful as a pocket passer. Seattle GM John Schneider has ties to Wisconsin and knew a lot about Wilson and was willing to take a flyer on him when others were leery. Seattle had also just signed Matt Flynn, so at the time they weren't necessarily counting on Wilson to be their starter. I think by any objective measure Wilson has been better this season, especially in the contest of the revolving door on the offensive line. Wilson has been among the most-pressured QBs all season, making his elusiveness a more valuable trait than ever for the Seahawks. The protection was better last week against Atlanta and you saw what happened --- a season-best 134.6 passer rating.