Weekly Mailbag -- Most Underrated Seahawks?

SeahawkFootball.com's Rob Rang answers your questions each week. Among this week's topics: Who are the Seahawks most underrated players? Which would players have scouts and coaches called "potential Pro Bowlers?" Is San Francisco imploding or is this a "trap game" for the Seahawks? All of this and more.

Weekly Mailbag: Have questions for longtime football scout and life-long Seattle-area resident Rob Rang? He'll answer five questions per week for SeahawkFootball.com. Send in your questions for possible inclusion in a future article to his Twitter account @RobRang

Who is the most underrated Seahawks player right now?

It is the nature of football for the "big uglies" along the lines to not get enough credit for their play. Center Lemuel Jeanpierre has performed pretty damn well the past few weeks, for example, and yet the perception is that the Seahawks have missed Max Unger a lot. There is no question that Unger is the better player and that his recognition and savvy is key to Seattle's success up front but it is a tribute to Jeanpierre and the Seahawks OL coaches of Tom Cable and Pat Ruel that the loss of a Pro Bowl center hasn't hampered the offense more.

For all of the love that Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril receive for Seattle's pass rush, Kevin Williams and Tony McDaniel certainly deserve acknowledgement too. Williams is so physically different than Brandon Mebane but he's firing off the ball and showing great strength and determination inside. As far as McDaniel goes, I thought releasing Red Bryant was going to hurt Seattle's run defense more than it has. That's a testament to McDaniel, who has handled the blue-collar work at the five-technique spot quite well.

The Seahawks are playing great! What is the reason for their sudden improved play?

Pete Carroll referred to a breakthrough of sorts in the week of practice and meetings leading up to the big win over Arizona a few weeks ago. The healthy return of Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor has also played a key role as these two players and their teammates seem to be simply playing faster than they were before and the swarming gang-tackling that helped the Seahawks lead the NFL in Total Defense a year ago has returned.

On the offensive side of the ball, the trust Seattle has in Russell Wilson has also played a role in the team's improved play. Those ugly missed touchdowns seem like years ago - not weeks ago - at this point. And while the Seahawks offense is hardly as aesthetically pleasing as the Packers, Patriots or Broncos, Wilson's elusiveness, vision and accuracy (on the move or in the pocket) gives Seattle some reserve playmaking ability when they need it.

What young players have surprised or disappointed you most on the Seahawks so far?

It isn't that I'm surprised by the ascending play of youngsters Tharold Simon and Jordan Hill but it is good to see. Scouts and coaches, alike, have told me they saw potential Pro Bowl talent in each of these players but we've only seen brief examples of this in the games. Obviously, last week was a big step for both players as Simon recorded his first NFL interception and Hill had a sack and big tackle for loss.

Given Seattle's struggles in the passing game and the numbers that other rookie receivers are posting throughout the NFL, Paul Richardson's inability to emerge as a big play threat is disappointing. The slim rookie is having a hard time fighting through jams at the line of scrimmage and therefore his timing with Wilson has been affected. I'm as intrigued by Luke Willson's frame and athleticism as anyone but he, too, needs to show more strength and grit in his release and also when asked to block.

Is this a "trap game" for the Seahawks, considering how well they've played recently and that the 49ers seem to be imploding?

It very well could be. After getting grilled by local and national media for their disappointing performance last week in the surprising loss to the Raiders, I would expect that the 49ers would be locked in this week, regardless of the opponent. The fact that it the Seahawks they're facing, of course, only adds more of a revenge factor to game. Jim Harbaugh is excellent at creating an "Us against the World" mentality and with the 49ers a double-digit underdog for the first time in his four years in San Francisco, you can bet he's drawing on these emotions with his players.

The 49ers activated All-Pro inside linebacker Navorro Bowman this week... Could he play a factor in this game?

When healthy, Bowman might just be the best linebacker in the league and so therefore if he was able to play, obviously he'd help San Francisco. Bowman has missed all season after suffering a horrific knee injury in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle last year and just the news of his impending return to the field could provide some emotional lift for the 49ers. He was only made active on Tuesday and hasn't yet practiced with the team so he is considered doubtful to return this week.

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