Q: John, Seattle already hosts a quality group of pass catchers including Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, both who are having standout seasons in their own right. Now with the addition of Josh Gordon, what does the veteran receiver provide for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense and how much of an impact should the 49ers expect in his debut with the team?
Boyle: Pete Carroll has been careful to avoid over-hyping Gordon before he has played a single down for Seattle, but there’s no denying that Gordon, if he’s anything close to his best, could provide a boost for an offense and a passing game that’s already functioning at a very high level. As you mentioned, Lockett and Metcalf are both having great seasons, so the Seahawks won’t feel like they have to force things with Gordon, but as we’ve already seen in games where Metcalf benefits from teams focusing on Lockett, having a third receiver who is a real matchup problem could open things up for whatever receiver a defense decides not to make a priority.
Carroll indicated that Gordon will likely play in some capacity on Monday, but how big of a role he’s ready for after one week of practice remains to be seen. That being said, Gordon impressed his coaches and teammates in his first few practices with the Seahawks.
“He did really well,” Carroll said Saturday. “He was very impressive in terms of picking stuff up, studying overtime. He fit in really well. He’s a really good athlete. You can really tell that he’s got a lot of potential to be a big-time player, so it was fun seeing him on the practice field. He did a nice job.”
Q: Seattle added defensive back Quandre Diggs in a trade with the Detroit Lions ahead of the deadline. Diggs has been nursing a hamstring injury, however practiced this week leading up to Monday’s matchup. What kind of boost does Diggs give Seattle’s defense if healthy in Week 10?
Boyle: The Seahawks obviously thought highly enough of Diggs to go out and make a trade for him, so they think he’ll help their secondary in some way. What that will look like, however, remains to be seen. Rookie Marquise Blair has started three straight games and the Seahawks see a lot of potential in him, while Bradley McDougald has arguably been Seattle’s best defensive back over the past two seasons. In other words, there’s not an obvious answer as to how the Seahawks get Diggs on the field. Carroll said Saturday that Diggs is ready to go after missing the previous two games, so I’m assuming we’ll see him in some capacity. That could mean he takes over a starting role from one of the two aforementioned players, or it could be in something of a nickel role, which is what he did earlier in his Detroit career before moving to safety, or perhaps the Seahawks find ways to get all three safeties on the field. How the Seahawks get Diggs involved, assuming he plays, will be an interesting subplot in Monday’s game.
Q: The 49ers vaunted defense will be tested in Week 10, facing a top-15 quarterback in Russell Wilson. Wilson is continuing his case for NFL MVP with his stellar play. Despite the struggles of Seattle’s offensive line, what’s been Wilson’s key to his elite play in 2019?
Boyle: I’d argue that the offensive line hasn’t struggled as much as people want to imply when they just look at the sack numbers, which are actually down from the past few years despite the Seahawks throwing more frequently. The Seahawks gave up 12 sacks in the first four games and 10 in their last five, so while that total isn’t great, they’re improving. And as much as Wilson’s ability to extend plays can lead to magic, it can also lead to some sacks that aren’t entirely on the line.
But anyway, to your main question, Wilson seems to just be doing everything a little bit better than he has before in what has already been a very impressive career. Carroll has said on a number of occasions that the presence of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has helped Wilson, and both Wilson and Schottenheimer’s offense as a whole are taking the kind of step forward you would expect in their second year together after something of an adjustment period last year.
And finally, as Carroll has been saying for years, quarterbacks often times continue to improve even six, seven and eight years into their careers. The position is so complex, there’s always more learning to do, and in year eight, Wilson is just that much more in control of everything going on around him.
Q: Just like San Francisco, Seattle is managing to find ways to win. The Seahawks have pulled off victories of seven points or less in all but one of their wins this season. What’s been the key to Seattle’s success and are the tight margins of victory a concern among the team?
Boyle: A big part of that is having a quarterback playing at an MVP level. Wilson has always been clutch in his career, helping the Seahawks to a league-high 31 comeback victories in the fourth quarter or overtime dating back to 2012, including four such wins this year. Last week’s win was a perfect example of how Wilson and the offense tend to come through late in games. With the score tied, the Seahawks went on a 75-yard drive to take the lead, but Tampa Bay answered with a touchdown of its own. Wilson then led a drive with less than a minute left to get the Seahawks in field goal range, but the 40-yard game-winning attempt missed. After that, Wilson and the offense responded with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to win it in overtime.
While the Seahawks aren’t necessarily trying to win close every week, Carroll sees a lot of value in it because those close victories can be learning experiences that help later in the season. So while the Seahawks wouldn’t mind some more comfortable wins, the fact that they tend to play a lot of close games over the years has probably helped this season.
Q: Although head coach Pete Carroll isn’t buying into the “rivalry” hysteria, is this matchup being featured on primetime adding to the excitement and intensity of this divisional contest?
Boyle: It depends on who you ask, but for the most part players are sticking to Carroll’s “every week is a championship opportunity” approach. That doesn’t mean, as Bobby Wagner noted this week, that players can’t enjoy a win over a really good opponent after the fact, should they emerge victorious, but players and coaches are making sure in the buildup to the game that they’re treating the week just like they would any other. For starters, Carroll and his players believe that getting too hyped for any one game can lead to mistakes by players trying to do too much, and secondly the thinking is that, if you treat this game as something bigger than the others, then do you try less hard when you play a non “rival” the next week?
All of that being said, there’s nothing wrong with fans having a little extra fun with this one given how high the stakes are in terms of the NFC West.