With the players off and the coaches preparing the game plan for Sunday’s matchup against the Panthers in Carolina, we figured it was a good time to hand out some quarter-season awards:
MVP: Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks’ Beast Mode back leads the NFL in rushing (423 yards) and the NFC in total yards from scrimmage (473). But even more impressive than his yardage totals is the effort that goes into compiling them. Not surprisingly, Lynch also leads the league in yards after contact (199), according to ESPN stats and information. He definitely is the leader the offense needs to follow as it continues to find its way under rookie QB Russell Wilson.
Best defensive player: Brandon Mebane. Can you say Pro Bowl? You can if you’ve watched Mebane’s efforts in the first four games. If Lynch is the tempo-setter for the offense, than Mebane is the disruptive metronome for the league’s No. 2-ranked defense. He has been a force from the nose tackle position by stuffing running plays and also picking up a couple of sacks.
Best special teams player: Jon Ryan. Oh, Canada. The team’s Saskatchewan-born punter has picked up where he left off last season. Ryan is second in the NFL in net average (44.2) and sixth in average (50.3). He also has gotten off a 73-yarder and had six of his 18 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. His franchise records in those categories are 39.3 (net), 46.4 (average), 77 (longest punt) and 34 (punts inside the 20). Honorable mention to co-captains Heath Farwell and Michael Robinson, for their efforts covering kicks but also for their leadership on the team’s most consistent units; and Leon Washington, who has returns of 83 and 69 yards on kickoffs and a 52-yard punt return.
Best rookie: Bobby Wagner. Despite leaving the field when the defense goes to it sub packages, the always-active middle linebacker is third on the team with 22 tackles and showing that he was very much worth the second-round draft choice the club used to acquire him as a more-athletic replacement for three-time leading tackler David Hawthorne, who signed with the Saints in free agency.
Best free-agent addition: Matt Flynn. Say what? He has yet to throw a pass in the regular season after Wilson won the starting job during the preseason. But the class and professionalism Flynn has displayed through this disappointing development deserves recognition. Besides, after the win over the Packers on “Monday Night Football,” several defensive players praised Flynn’s spot-on efforts during practice in portraying Aaron Rodgers – the QB he backed up the past four seasons – as a key element in their preparation.
Joe Nash award (or what would they do without?): Paul McQuistan. He started the first three games at left guard, because James Carpenter was completing his rehab from the severe left knee injury he got during practice last November. With Carpenter back last week, McQuistan slid to right guard to replace John Moffitt, who could miss at least another week because of a knee injury. Heck, in Sunday’s game against the Rams, McQuistan played both spots as Carpenter had to leave for a few plays after tweaking his right knee. But then McQuistan did start 10 games last season – at three different positions.
Best play: Make that most-memorable play and it’s a no-brainer – Golden Tate wrestling the ball from Packers safety M.D. Jennings in the end zone on the final play to give the Seahawks’ their two-point win over Green Bay. The NFL news cycle whirled incessantly for 48 hours on this one before the lockout ending for the real officials pulled the focus in another direction.
Best performance in one quarter: Chris Clemons collecting four sacks of Rodgers in the second quarter of the Monday night game. It was a career-high total for Clemons and tied the franchise single-game record.
Best performance in one half: The Seahawks generating eight sacks of Rodgers in the first half of the Monday night game, with rookie Bruce Irvin and Mebane each getting a pair to supplement Clemons’ onslaught.
Best trend: The play of the defense, especially against the run. While the Seahawks rank No. 2 overall in average yards allowed (275.8), they are No. 2 against the run (62.8) – and also No. 2 allowing 2.99 yards per carry despite facing the Rams’ Steven Jackson, the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray and the Packers’ Cedric Benson, who rank among the Top 12 in the NFC in rushing.
Most unsettling trend: Third downs. While the defense is allowing opponents to convert 43.1 percent of the time, the offense is converting 28 percent of the time. That’s a combination that cannot continue. By getting off the field in three downs more often (the Seahawks have forced 13 three-and-outs in 43 possessions by their opponents), the defense can give the offense some needed field position. By sustaining more drives on third downs (the Seahawks have 11 three-and-outs on their 41 possessions), the offense can give the defense a longer rest – and Lynch more chances to produce more first downs.
With all that said, Hawkville will return to its normal format tomorrow, when the players return from their off day to begin preparing for Sunday’s game against the Panthers in Carolina.