Seattle Seahawks searching for identity during bye week

RENTON, Wash. — Just past the quarter pole of the 2017 season, the true identity of this year’s Seattle Seahawks remains unknown.

While their defense looks very much like the same imposing unit it’s been for much of the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks’ offense continues to sputter against better competition.

Seattle hasn’t scored a touchdown on its opening possession in over a full calendar year. That’s despite offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spending much of the week preparing for a given opponent and scripting the first 15 plays of the game that, in theory, would best take advantage of the Seahawks’ opponent.

And while Seattle has shown glimpses of offensive success — from Russell Wilson‘s career-high 373 yards passing and four touchdowns against Tennessee to a 46-18 romp over the Indianapolis Colts — the consistency has been lacking.

The loss of running back Chris Carson for most, if not all, of the season to injury has thrown a wrench in a rushing attack that seemed to be improving. Jimmy Graham has been slow to get started this season. Wilson has made most of his errors early in games, which hasn’t allowed Seattle to play with a lead often.

“We have a lot of work to do and we are going to come roaring back, but guys will be healed up somewhat and we should be fresh and we are going to try and take full advantage of that,” Carroll said.

Seattle’s offensive line continues to be a limiting factor as well. Even though the group has seemingly improved just about every week, the linemen have allowed Wilson to get hit at least 10 times in two of their last three games.

“That we have made improvement and we are kind of feeling out our guys in terms of what their strengths are and how they are fitting together with still areas that you can see that we will improve,” Carroll said of the offensive line. “In terms of identification, communication on the move, some of the pass rushes, there is just small things that we can do better that will keep us cleaner.”

Defensively, Seattle is allowing just 17.4 points per game, which ranks fifth in the league through the first five weeks of the season. However, the Seahawks have allowed big plays in the rushing game far more frequently than they have in the past. They’ve allowed six runs of at least 25 yards this year after allowing just four in all of 2016.

The Seahawks are coming off a performance against the Los Angeles Rams where they forced four turnovers defensively and held the top-ranked Rams’ offense to just 10 points.

In glimpses, the Seahawks look every bit the juggernaut of past years. In other moments, they look woefully incompetent offensively to the point of being noncompetitive offensively. Whether they can smooth out those areas of concern will be the biggest focus as the team returns from its bye.

–When the Seahawks return from their bye week, they will have a trio of players eligible to begin practicing.

Cornerback DeShawn Shead, defensive end Dion Jordan and defensive tackle Malik McDowell have spent the first five weeks of the season on reserve lists as they recover from injuries. Shead is on the physically unable to perform list due to an ACL injury sustained in the playoffs last January. Jordan and McDowell are both on the non-football injury list.

Jordan required a pair of knee surgeries after signing with the team in April. McDowell was injured in an ATV accident at home in Michigan prior to the start of training camp in July.

While all three players can return to practice next week, none of the three is expected to be back on the field just yet. Shead and Jordan are each expected to sit at least another week. McDowell’s status is less certain.

Head coach Pete Carroll said last week that the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of McDowell returning to the roster this season. He is scheduled to have a new round of examinations in the next two weeks that will give the team a clearer picture of his potentially availability.

“There’s been some conversation from different camps, kind of, about where he is and how he’s doing, so the checkups are really important and we’ll just see. We have not ruled that thought out that he could come back,” Carroll said.

In addition to some facial injuries, McDowell sustained a “really bad concussion” in the accident, according to Carroll. The team has been mum on the full extent of McDowell’s injuries but Carroll’s comments last week were the clearest indication of his continued issues.

All three players are eligible to return to practice after the team’s bye this week and would not count against the team’s 53-man roster limit. The team would then have a five-week window in which it could allow the trio to begin practicing. Once a player returns to practice, he can practice for a period of 21 days before the team would need to make a decision on whether to add him to its active roster or place the player on injured reserve.

The final day players can be activated from the PUP/NFI lists is Nov. 21.

NOTES: DE Dion Jordan is on the reserve/non-football injury list and eligible to begin practicing next week. The Seahawks haven’t indicated what their plans are for Jordan, who had two knee surgeries in April. … DT Malik McDowell is on the reserve/non-football injury, and head coach Pete Carrol said he believes there is a chance McDowell might play this season. McDowell suffered serious injuries in an ATV accident before the start of training camp.

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