Seahawks-49ers wild card: Vision Board
Rookie of the Year, Star Wars, Jerry Maguire: Seaside Joe 1411
The critics agree: Seaside Joe’s vision board is off to a perfect start in 2023! Two thumbs up.
Two thumbs way up.
In last week’s critical game against the L.A. Rams, Joe’s visions were a perfect three-of-three for the second week in a row. Going into their third week as the Vision’s main players, can Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times make it a perfect 9-of-9 in this week’s wild card game against the 49ers?
Geno Smith reaches the playoffs (Vision: Thumbs Up) Geno finishes off what should be a slam dunk “Comeback Player of the Year” season by being the most unlikely quarterback to not fall ass backwards into the playoffs. He earned his place as Seattle’s wire-to-wire starter and he’s making his playoff debut this weekend in thanks to some big time throws, none bigger than his touchdown to Tyler Lockett.
Shelby Harris and co. round up Baker Mayfield (Vision: Thumbs Up) Mayfield was sacked five times and pressured 11 times. Harris was not credited with a pressure but his impact was significant, he had a season-best six tackles and a key stop late in the game.
Michael Dickson, hero ball (Vision: Thumbs Up!) The Aussie had a good day as a punter, but it was his presence as a player being “run into” that helped keep Seattle’s game-tying drive alive in the fourth quarter.
At this point, there’s no question that one of the reasons for the Seahawks’ shocking run to the postseason this year was the existence of the Seaside Joe newsletter and the support of readers who have contributed the price of a cup of coffee per month for a daily+ article about the team. Join the crew and become a Regular Joe for only a cup of joe per month!
Now onto the Seahawks-49ers visions for the wild card round.
May the force (A)be with (L)u(cas): Seahawks keep Geno Smith clean as Abraham Lucas takes his place among the stars
It just occurred to me for the first time ever that George Lucas named his hero Luke. Similarly, Seattle’s main hero this Saturday could be how well Lucas forces Nick Bosa out of position and neutralizes his impact in the game, no matter how low those odds would appear to be today.
We’re lucky that Siskel and Ebert debuted in 1975, early enough to get their takes on 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Ebert opens the segment by introducing a clip from Star Wars with, “Here we see them in a planetary wasteland…”
Also known as: Santa Clara.
“I think I figured out the secret. That looks exactly like what happens in a pinball game. We’re seeing things blow up — quick action like that — it’s like you’re putting every person as a pinball player.” - Gene Siskel on why Star Wars was a smash hit at the time and also analogously, how Abe Lucas and Charles Cross can defeat San Francisco’s front-seven by moving them around the field like pinball wizards.
Every year, we hear of “draft steals” and “impact rookies” in the offseason, preseason, and training camp, only to have that analysis exposed as short-sighted over-exuberance to a couple of great plays, coach speak, and highlights against practice squad competition by the end of the season. Not so with Abe Lucas.
SportsInfoSolutions rated Abe Lucas as the best rookie offensive tackle in the NFL this season, ranked ahead of teammate Charles Cross by a good margin. Even Cross was just the third offensive tackle off of the board, and Lucas was eventually the seventh pure tackle taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. And SIS isn’t the only outlet, Lucas has been getting his due from all sources, it’s past the point of being obvious that Seattle might have more to work on with their top-10 pick than with a third rounder who should have never made it outside of day one.
Not that there’s major concerns with Cross—let’s not forget that in 2020, Giants’ tackle Andrew Thomas was immediately criticized as a draft bust and now he might be New York’s best all-around player—only that the Seahawks can feel confident that the risk they assumed by going into camp with two rookies as the bookends has paid off.
Has mostly paid off.
Geno Smith has run himself into plenty of sacks this season, but that is rarely without cause. Smith wasn’t sacked against the Lions and that is the only game out of 17 in which he wasn’t sacked at least two times. Geno was pressured on 22.5% of his dropbacks, 12th-highest rate in the league, and the only quarterbacks who were blitzed more times in 2022 were Jared Goff, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts.
San Francisco only has the 21st highest blitz rate in the NFL (notably, the Seahawks were 32nd in blitz rate at 16%) but why should any team worry about extra rushers when they’ve got the NFL’s sack leader, Nick Bosa?
Per NextGenStats, Bosa ranked first in pressures, first in sacks per pass rush opportunities, and his 27 pressures against Seattle since 2019 are the most of any player facing the Seahawks. As you’d expect, there’s been a massive difference in pressure on the quarterback when Bosa is on the field vs. when he isn’t and it’s not a coincidence that Kyle Shanahan’s one major blip over the last four seasons came in 2019 (6-10), when Bosa missed 14 games.
So we can’t expect Bosa to miss this contest, can we? Instead, we have to throw it out into the universe that Abe Lucas and Charles Cross are going to ascend to their next level as football players and emerge as offensive tackle superstars who did the improbable: Kept Geno clean, gave Geno time to throw, and neutralize the 49ers pass rush long enough for Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and the tight ends to get wide open against San Francisco’s secondary.
With a stars’ day in inclement weather by Lucas’ high-blocker, you never know we might just see
Boba Fett Bosa fret.
Funky Butt-Lovin’: Pete Carroll draws a “Walk” Tariq havoc on Niners with his Rookies of the Year
Whenever I re-visit movies on Siskel and Ebert that I watched and cherished as a kid, there’s always that fear that it may not hold up and that they will find little redeeming value in the picture. Just this past Christmas we watched The Santa Clause and oh boy, what a ridiculously stupid movie. Which also happens to be that movie’s most redeeming quality.
No such fears with Rookie of the Year. “Two big thumbs up.”
So too do two Seahawks rookies—in addition to Abe Lucas and Charles Cross—deserve mention as holding up with each re-watch of their first season. Now there is much ongoing debate and consternation this week about not Santa’s stupid list, but the AP’s stupid list for All-Pro teams and awards season for Offensive and Defensive ROY.
Will Tariq Woolen win over Sauce Gardner? No.
Will Ken Walker win over Brock Purdy? Maybe.
Will any of this matter to anyone six minutes after the awards are announced? I highly doubt it.
What does matter is that Walker has had a thrilling rookie campaign, not too dissimilar from that of Henry Rowengartner in Rookie of the Year. We could re-hash all the numbers, but it has been a month since Walker’s last poor outing as a runner, which was the 12-carry, 47-yard output against San Francisco.
Much like how it doesn’t matter that the Seahawks got swept by the 49ers this season if they can just win the rubber match, it also doesn’t matter that Walker had 57 total rushing yards against San Francisco if he can go for his fourth straight 100-yard game this Saturday. At a time when the weather is likely to force these teams to run the ball even more often than usual, Walker stands a great chance to be Seattle’s difference-maker on offense.
The Seahawks are 9-0 in the top-nine single-game posteason rushing performances, five of which belong to Marshawn Lynch, and the most of which came from Thomas Rawls (161 yards) in a win over the Detroit Lions six years ago. Walker had at least 97 yards in six of his 11 starts, but he will be facing his toughest test in the wild card round.
The 49ers were first in rushing yards over expectation allowed and they ranked second in 2021. They have the second-best stuff rate over the past two seasons, as well. It’s the exact type of numbers that Carroll was hoping to have this year that obviously Seattle has not had. With a runner as special as Walker, in conditions that could make him harder to tackle, I see the rookie having an impact performance that goes well beyond what we saw in the first two games against the 49ers.
Conversely, Tariq Woolen led the NFL in passer rating allowed (depending on who you ask, PFF has Gardner number one, but several other outlets have Woolen) as the nearest defender and he is probably the fastest player in the NFL. He’s a great asset and I see his ball hawking to come in handy against Purdy this Saturday, especially as it pertains to throwing at his number one downfield target, Brandon Aiyuk.
When you see that the 49ers lost to the worst team in the NFL in Week 1, the Bears, you get notes that “Well, the game had terrible weather conditions.” Well, this game could have terrible weather conditions. A low-scoring contest favors the road team, the team from a rain city, and the team with rookies who maybe just don’t know any better when it comes to feeling the pressure of the moment.
I sense no pressure.
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Uchenna Nwosu after Saturday: “Show me the money”
“Jerry Maguire is a busy picture that tries to cover a lot of ground and does most of it fairly successfully.”
Roger Ebert calls Jerry Maguire “two and a half movies” and notes that it could be better if the content were not so bulky, either focusing on the relationship or focusing on the cut throat world of sports agents, but overall likes the movie. We could draw some parrallels here to the real world of the NFL, as I feel there is way too much energy spent these days on what happens off of the field and that often distracts us from enjoying the moments we get to have watching these players on the field.
But that is the world we live in.
Uchenna Nwosu is a busy edge rusher who covers a lot of ground and does most of it fairly successfully. He has done an incredible job of setting the edge for Seattle’s defense in 2022, as only three players (including Bosa) saw teams run to the opposite side of the defense more often this season.
Now, Nwosu did have an issue racking up those key “social media stats” this season, especially in the second half. He only had 2.5 sacks in the last eight games and two of those came against John Wolford’s Rams in Week 13. He then shared in one sack of Baker Mayfield’s Rams in Week 18. I know, you know, we all know that Nwosu was better than sack totals (“I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.”), but if I’m the Seahawks front office that’s the number I’m pointing to in the next round of contract negotiations.
“Why no sacks against any team other than the Rams in the entire second half of the schedule?” It’s not for lack of opportunity. But I’m certain that Darrell Taylor, who had 6.5 sacks in the last six games, owes Nwosu a debt of gratitude as Nwosu definitely helped him, help you, help him.
One of the best things about Nwosu this season was cost: $6.3 million against the 2022 salary cap. One of the most difficult realities facing the Seahawks in the offseason is that same cost. Similar to how Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were not interested in being “good values” to Seattle, neither should Nwosu feel like he can continue to be an asset without being paid like a number one edge setter. Nwosu carries a $13 million cap hit in 2023, the final of his two-year deal.
“We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors.”
However, a dominant performance by the 26-year-old in a playoff game against a division rival that is favored by 9.5 points, that could go a long way towards forcing the Seahawks to show him the money in the offseason. Negotiations are going to happen—Seattle doesn’t want Nwosu to enter a contract year if they can help it—but he either goes out getting neutralized and lowers his value or he potentially becomes a Saturday night star on primetime television and raises his price.
Please do what we all think you’re gonna do…which is…you know…FLIP OUT! Five pressures, one sack, one forced fumble, and one more unforgettable quote. Time to get the kwan.
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