With the Seattle Seahawks forced by the league schedule to take an early recess, coach Pete Carroll was asked if the first three games of 2014 have carried any surprises or particularly gratifying developments — player performances, team accomplishments, anything.
He answered: “Meh.” Or something to that effect. The sound implied that no compelling answer jumped out at him.
His team is 2-1 with impressive wins over Green Bay and Denver and a road loss under difficult conditions in San Diego. And it has to take next week off with the earliest available bye on the schedule.
So he’s not interested in making knee-jerk generalizations when they’re only 18.75 percent of the way through the season.
“I think the thing going into the early part of the season is just we’ve grown, we’re getting wiser with our guys,” Carroll said.
He pointed to guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter as players who have grown into their positions and are “better and more consistent.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson is, too, he said, along with fullback Robert Turbin and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Injured linebacker Bruce Irvin will show that, too, when he returns to health.
“They’re growing with the limited experience that they have, and, in that, we’re more able to adjust, more able to anticipate. It helps us to play fast and should really help us as we get into the meat of the season. I think that’s just the natural growth and progression that’s showing up.”
I’m more easily surprised than Carroll.
I couldn’t expect Ricardo Lockette to lead the team in touchdown catches (two), while Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller and Jermaine Kearse have none combined.
Lockette has been a speedy but raw receiver who has earned his roster spot with outrageous athleticism on special teams. But he’s improved his hands and understanding of the position to become a threat, averaging 25.7 yards per catch.
Wagner has been a statistical wonder as well, with 35 tackles thus far. At that rate, he’ll finish with 186 for the season, which would smash Terry Beeson’s team record of 153, set in 1978.
Wilson has been such a quarterbacking prodigy that it’s fair for Carroll to remind us that he’s still learning the position. And game circumstances thus far have caused him to average 29 attempts per game, compared with 24 last season.
But his completion percentage has rocketed up from 63.1 last season to 69 percent in the first three games.
A statistical aberration due to the quality of the first three opponents is the passer rating of opposing quarterbacks — 94.3, compared with the stunning 63.4 the Hawks held teams to last season.
“We have had tremendous tests,” Carroll said. “Just about the three best quarterbacks you could throw at us.” Those would be Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning.
That explains the Seahawks’ meager two interceptions in three games, well down from the five they had this time last season, three of which were taken from Colin Kaepernick of the rival 49ers.
Michael Bennett has come up with three sacks in as many games, a pace that would bring him out way ahead of his 8.5 last season.
I’m a little surprised that Bryan Walters has more catches (four) than second-round rookie Paul Richardson (one). And newly acquired nickel back Marcus Burley would have more passes defensed (two) than Richard Sherman (one), and the same amount of tackles (10).
The outcome of the first three games, meanwhile, has reinforced Carroll’s unwavering expectations for how the Seahawks must play. Fast.
“We learned that if we don’t fly around the field like we normally do, we could have a bad day like we had in San Diego,” he said. “We just couldn’t get our game going the way we can play it, and it didn’t look anything at all like we did against the Packers and Denver.”
It’s early in the season, but the team gets its break now, and is surely buoyed by the overtime win over Denver on Sunday.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Carroll said. “We really feel good about what we’re doing, and we have a lot of areas to improve at. But we do need to play our style and the format we’ve constructed around here.”
Because that’s what eliminates the surprises.