Our Interview with the Enemy series continues this week with John Fraley from Field Gulls. John joins us to answer a few quick questions before the New Orleans Saints take on the Seattle Seahawks at home in Caesars Superdome on Sunday.
TH: When Geno Smith was initially announced as the Seahawks starting QB, fans were on the fence about him, but he had a great performance last Sunday and was just named NFC Player of the Week. What are fans thoughts on him now?
JF: You’d be hard-pressed to find any Seahawk whose stock has risen faster in a shorter time than Geno Smith’s. Hardly anyone around here disagreed with the ubiquitous preseason evaluations that ranked Seattle’s QB room in the bottom five of the league. Yes, below the Panthers even sometimes. And you guys know how well things have gone in Carolina so far, oof. Well, now, fans chant Geno’s name in the stands, without irony even. He’s outplayed his predecessor, who had a nice little run here. It’s been a gratifying development for those observers who felt it was time to move on from Russell Wilson for age reasons, or because the offense was spinning its wheels for too long, or to jumpstart a real rebuild. (Which was not me! I was angry about the trade! Less so now.) Over the summer I remember theorizing the only way the Seahawks had a chance to sneak into the playoffs was through re-imagining their offense in the mold of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Both of them crafted Super Bowl (losing) teams with subpar QBs and plenty of talent elsewhere on offense, following a scheme that stresses opposing defenses without asking too much of the game manager under center. Since the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator is a former McVay assistant, there was a sliver of hope that Geno could be the next Jimmy G or Jared Goff. So far, that’s exactly how it’s turned out. Lot of season left to go, but at the same time, four games isn’t nothing. Short of it: nobody, and I do mean nobody, foresaw Smith leading the league in completion percentage and CPOE (completion percentage above expectation) at the quarter pole, or winning any kind of offensive award whatsoever. For a guy who barely saw the field as Wilson’s backup, it’s been really cool to watch. People are even talking about keeping him long-term, although I suspect that will die down after he faces some tougher defenses than the Falcons and Lions.
TH: Seattle’s defense just gave up 45 points to the Lions, they lead the league allowing the most passing yards and have allowed the 3rd most rushing yards per carry. What will they have to do to stop Alvin Kamara and crew?
JF: They’ll have to do whatever they did in the first part of the game when these teams met last — and avoid doing whatever they did in the last part, when Kamara gashed them repeatedly through the air. Remember how the Seahawks held him to 51 yards on the ground but had no answer for him on screens and dump-offs. 121 yards receiving from a running back is almost unforgivable, except when it’s Kamara, I guess. And now Seattle’s personnel is even worse than it was last year. Without Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams, or any sort of presence on the edge of the defensive line, I am dubious that AK can be contained at all on Sunday. The only guy who can stop Kamara from having a big day is Kamara himself. If the ribs keep him out, I like the Seahawks defensive outlook a lot more.
However. (And there’s always a however attached to any nice thing you can say about this soggy towel of a defense.) However, Andy Dalton is exactly the kind of safe checkdown quarterback that gives Seattle fits. Came into Lumen Field and led the Bears (!) to victory just last December, in fact. So, I’m thinking no matter who the Saints roll out on offense, they will score points. We saw this in Detroit last week — without Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark and DeAndre Swift, or a kicker, the Lions still put up 45. That’s bound to happen when you have 1.25 starting linebackers, 1.25 starting safeties and no pass rush. Which is where the Seahawks find themselves. They’re a couple aces short of a full deck on defense and until those guys manifest or show up in the next draft, it’s going to be open season on the defense no matter who they line up against.
TH: Is there a particular Seahawks player who was not on many people’s radars that has really stood out to you so far this season and why?
JF: Even though I should say rookie corner Tariq Woolen, with his interceptions in consecutive games and the pick-six that made all the difference last week, I am going to go with the pair of tight ends Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. They were criminally under-utilized last year with a total of 27 receptions and one TD between them. This season they’re already up to 18 catches and four TDs combined. The Seahawks have had great success running and passing out of 13 personnel (one RB, 3 TE), so look for that formation, and for Dissly/Parkinson running down the seam untouched. At least twice.
(Woolen is a real candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Don’t be surprised if he conjures up another takeaway on Sunday.)
TH: What is the biggest obstacle you think the Seahawks will have to face in order to defeat the Saints on Sunday?
JF: Outside of poor defense? Themselves. We saw so many self-inflicted wounds in Weeks 3 and 4. Penalties and special teams miscues against Detroit were costly and almost swung the result the other way. Fumbled a punt, missed an easy FG, mishandled the onside kick, allowed a fake punt. I would suggest the Saints break out their bag of fakes. And 11 penalties are just too many for any other week. I’m not especially intimidated by the Saints defense, which is aging rapidly, doesn’t manufacture turnovers, and is 24th in scoring. The Seahawks will score and so will the Saints. Aplenty. But how many scores will Seattle allow or leave on the board through sheer ineptitude? Those miscues and where they happen on the field will decide things more than any other factor, I think.
TH: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Saints are currently 5.5-point favorites. Do you think that they cover the spread? What is your final score prediction?
JF: The Seahawks tend to cover historically as underdogs. They’re only 2-2 against the spread this year but if there’s any franchise you can count on to keep the game close no matter what, it’s ours. With a defense this bad, they run a real risk of getting blown out as soon as they meet a good pass rush, but I don’t think that’s the Saints. Take the Seahawks and the points (I will), but a more sure bet to me is the over. It’s hard to win on the road without a great QB, so how about NO 35, Seattle 33.
Thank you again to John for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out his work on Field Gulls
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