Seattle Seahawks

The one, “big” problem for Seahawks rolling offense: The punter is bored

You see these Seahawks soaring, the Super Bowl champions already looking like they are in regular-season form in late August.

Pete Carroll? He sees a problem, an issue buried beneath outscoring Chicago and San Diego 55-0 in the first halves of the last two exhibition games. It’s 65-0 in the first halves of the entire exhibition season if you throw in the final 16 minutes of the first half Aug. 7 in Denver.

The issue: Well, see, punter Jon Ryan is lonely.

“He’s a little underworked right now,” Carroll deadpanned following Seattle’s 34-6 victory over the Bears Friday night, which was 31-0 with the starters 7 for 7 on converting third downs into first downs by halftime.

The Seahawks’ starting offense has converted 12 of their last 13 third downs. The franchise has as many Super Bowl titles in its history as Ryan has punts in the first halves of three exhibition games. That lone boot was at the end of the first drive of the exhibition season, when three-fifths of the offensive line was injured or not even on the trip to Colorado.

Such has been the dominance of Russell Wilson. He is 30 for 39 this month, a completion percentage of a 76.9 percent, for 360 yards, two touchdowns passing and no interceptions. That’s a quarterback rating of 121.7 — and that doesn’t count Wilson’s three scores rushing and at least 10 sacks he’s avoided in three games with signature dashes past bewildered pass rushers.

Such has been the brilliance, lethality and plain raw speed of the reborn Percy Harvin. In these first months following hip surgery he said he hasn’t felt this healthy and fast since “before high school.” That was a decade ago.

And such has been the multitude of weapons — Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse outside and in the slot, emerging Robert Turbin and rebounding Christine Michael in the backfield — that Wilson has been enjoying this month.

“We have so many other guys that can step up in terms of Zach Miller, Luke (Willson), and (third tight end) Cooper Helfet, too,” Wilson said. “Then you factor in the running backs, it makes it tough to defend us.”

These games don’t count for anything but looks and feelings, of course. But they do up the potential for the Seahawks to go from at-times conservatively reliant on Marshawn Lynch’s rugged running and their thudding, top-ranked defense last season to so much more dangerous this season.

As wide receiver Doug Baldwin said: “Offensively, as a whole, we are going to be more explosive, which is saying a lot.”

The addition of the finally healthy, supersonic Harvin alone provides defenses a whole new challenge to how teams defend Seattle.

“It’s kind of hard to tell right now; it’s preseason,” Wilson said. “I think when (defenses) go man, it’s tough to defend three or four receivers that we have in the game.”

Wilson said that defenses are thus likely to use zone coverages against Seattle this season, “but there’s only so much you can when you have guys like Doug Baldwin on the other side and Jermaine Kearse on the other side — or all three of them on the same side.

“It’s hard to stop us defensively with the personnel we have.”

Left tackle Russell Okung started the exhibition against Chicago for the first time since offseason surgery on his toe — though Carroll took him and center Max Unger out after two drives because the coach said both looked “gassed.”

Okung exemplified the thinking right now for many Seahawks on offense Friday night when he looked up from his locker and said: “We’ve got guys running all over the field. We have so many weapons now.

“The only one who can stop us is us.”

And, for a change, the Seahawks haven’t been doing that anymore this month, either. Seattle led the NFL with 128 penalties in 16 regular-season games last year, then had 13 more flags in the exhibition opener at Denver this month. Carroll put down a demand to end that in the days following that game.

In the flag-happy NFL with its “points of emphasis” on enforcing rules such as illegal contact by defensive backs and hands to the face by anyone and everyone — even while covering kickoffs — what the Seahawks have done, or not done, the last two weeks is a small feat.

“(What) I’m really fired up about is that in the last two games, when the first unit’s on the field, we’ve had two penalties, which is really good execution for us,” Carroll said. “And that’s a big step in the right direction and hopefully we can keep that going.

“I’m really happy with those guys and their attention to the details to get that done. That will help us down the road.”

And if that road includes the punter, Ryan, idled for swaths of the regular season, well, that’s a problem with which the revitalized offense can live.

“It’s a good thing,” Carroll said, before adding as if to justify Ryan’s place on the team: “We’re getting plenty of work in practice. We have a really good punt team. 

“All in all, we’ll take it this way.”

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