I believe that Russ is playing at an MVP level and is as good as he's ever been. The trust he and Schotty have developed over the last couple of years is bearing fruit, and Schotty being up in the booth is likewise paying dividends. I believe that Pete and Russ are incredibly well-matched mentally and emotionally — both are positive to the point some think they're putting on an act (they aren't), relentlessly competitive, and incredibly hard-working. I believe the extra time Russ spent with DK and others is paying off big time.
Carson looks outstanding, but there's a drop-off after him. Homer is good on ST and blocks well. He hasn't really shined thus far as a runner. Hyde needs to get healthy. DJ showed a couple flashes, but he’s green. I suspect we may see more of him if he shows he can block as well as Homer and has all the assignments/protections down. We also have no way of knowing to what degree Penny will assist due to his injury late last season.
The O line is better this year, and considering we have three new starters, that's saying something. Lewis needs to clean up the false starts, but overall he's done fine for a rook. Ethan is doing very well as a fulltime center. Shell isn't a world beater, but he is not terrible either. He's quietly doing his job and is reasonably successful at it. The line play should improve as they get more time together as a unit. Jones and Simmons are both getting reps, which is important for their development.
Michael Dickson is man. He was more than worth moving up to the 5th round in last year’s draft. Walsh hasn’t had much to do other than PATs, but he’s nailed the few FG attempts he has had. I honestly can’t even remember who the current long snapper is, which probably means he’s doing his job well.
I believe the lack of OTAs and preseason badly impacted the defense. The rash of injuries has further set the D back. I think the safety combo of Adams, Diggs, and the surprising Neal could be excellent once Adams is healthy and they've had time to play together more. Ugo has played well at nickel, and Shaq has played much better the last couple of games. The weakness in the DB corps is on the other side, where Flowers seems to have lost confidence and is playing too tentatively, and Dunbar is new to the scheme and has a somewhat iffy knee. I’m not sure what the answer is there other than time.
KJ is playing out of his mind. He may prefer the other side, but he’s been money since the switch. Bobby is a little “off” (but still really good overall). He may be pressing too much. Barton is improving, but he might need to get a little bigger. I’m curious to see what Brooks can do when he gets back.
And that brings us to the D line and pass rush. We don't have that one big-name type of sack specialist, and losing Bruce hurt us. We also haven't seen Rasheem Green yet, or the rookie, Taylor. We have to hope those guys get healthy and contribute. Mayowa has gotten good pressure (which helped with some of the turnovers) but isn't getting home a lot. He needs help. Reed showed up against the Vikes, but he's been playing a lot of snaps. Hopefully Harrison can help plug the middle, enabling other guys to get to the QB. As with the O line, more time as a unit —and getting everyone healthier — may have a positive effect.
Are there some issues with this team, particularly on defense? Yes. But these guys will fight to the bitter end, and if it's at all feasible, they will pull out a win. They have grit and character, and that's a reflection of the leadership of Pete, Russ, Bobby, and KJ. Pete’s teams usually improve as the season progresses, and getting guys healthy should aid that.
The Hawks are 5-0, and there is reason for tempered optimism. Enjoy the journey!