Tag Archives: Red Bryant

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

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Seahawks/Broncos Preview

6 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, Colorado)

Kickoff: 6:00pm

Six months ago the Seahawks wrapped up the best season in franchise history, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The 2014 season starts against the same team that we ended our 2013 season against as the Seahawks head to Denver Thursday night to play the Broncos in the 2014 preseason opener. The Seahawks defeated the Broncos in the preseason last year, winning in convincing style 40-10 at CenturyLink Field. This will be the first of two games against the Broncos in 2014; the Seahawks and Broncos will meet in week 3 of the regular season in Seattle. Although this is only a preseason game there are many things to keep an eye on. Here are a few of the things I will be focusing on this week.

Seahawks training camp has been going on for two weeks. With the first live game action since February on deck, it is reasonable to expect that the first team offense and defense may come out a bit rusty. That is what the preseason is for after all; to shake the rust off and get ready for the regular season. I am very interested to see a couple of different things on offense. First I am interested to see what kind of protection Russell Wilson gets in the passing game. If the unofficial Seattle Times depth chart is accurate, the Seahawks will start 3 linemen that did not start in 2013. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left tackle with Caylin Hauptmann at left guard and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle. With this questionable offensive line, I could see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell using wide receiver Percy Harvin on quick throws or sweeps, especially if Wilson is feeling the pressure at the beginning of the serie(s). The second thing I want to see on offense is how running plays will be split between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. I do not expect to see Marshawn Lynch until maybe next week against San Diego, so Turbin and Michael will see expanded playing time on Thursday. Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart but it would not surprise me to see an alternating committee instead of Turbin playing with the second team offense and Michael playing strictly with the third team offense.

The Seahawks defense has made a name for themselves as being one of the deepest units in the NFL as a whole. Over the past couple of seasons backups such as Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them while solidifying themselves as reliable starters. On Thursday defensive backups will get their first opportunity to make a name for themselves and for some, prove that they are simply capable of making the 53-man roster. The Seahawks are projected to start Mike Morgan at outside linebacker and rookie Brock Coyle from Montana at middle linebacker. Coyle will start over incumbent special teamer Heath Farwell, which shows how far Coyle has progressed during training camp.

This will also be the first time the Seahawks show off their (semi) new look defensive line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are now in Jacksonville, which opens up both starting defensive end spots to 2013 rotational players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks pass rush package now consists of Avril, Bennett, Bruce Irvin (who will not play on Thursday) and rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh.

The Denver Broncos are coming off one of the most impressive statistical seasons of any offensive unit in NFL history. After breaking numerous passing records, yet getting embarrassed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, Denver spent a large amount of money in the offseason upgrading their defense with veteran talent. After the Seahawks defense only allowed 8 points to Denver in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made these moves in free agency to counter select NFC powers such as Seattle and San Francisco. The Broncos signed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib among others to improve the Broncos pass rush and secondary respectively. From a Seahawks perspective, I view this game as a hollow preview of what could be coming when we play Denver in the regular season. I am curious to see just how improved the Broncos defense is compared to last season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Broncos this week is rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is the Denver’s 2014 first round draft pick and is currently slotted behind Aqib Talib on the depth chart. Roby has been playing really well during training camp and will likely see significant playing time on Thursday, especially later in the game.

Random Thoughts: This will be a mini uniform rematch from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and the Broncos will wear orange jerseys with white pants. The Seahawks pant color has yet to be announced but it would not surprise me at all if we wear blue pants just like in the Super Bowl… I am glad we get Denver at home in the regular season. We will see three of our preseason opponents in the regular season and in each instance the location of the game is different from the preseason to the regular season… I am curious to how the Seahawks will be received in Denver as the team that just beat the home team in the Super Bowl mere months earlier. I imagine it will be as hostile an environment as possible for a preseason game… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Menefee and Huard will call all 4 Seahawks preseason games on television this year. As always, the score and the outcome in the preseason does not matter. The only thing that truly matters is that we can fly home injury-free. If the Seahawks can avoid sustaining any major injuries we will have already won heading into another week of training camp.

Prediction: I think that the Broncos will be as fired up as possible coming into this game. They want to stick it to us after we embarrassed them back in February. I could see the Seahawks starting the game with the ball and struggling early. If the Seahawks win this game, I expect it to be on the arm and legs of a much improved Terrelle Pryor. The Seahawks have not lost a preseason game since 2011 but I believe our 10-game preseason winning streak will come to an end this week. The final score will be close but the Broncos will be able to do just enough more on offense to walk away with the victory.

Broncos 27, Seahawks 17

Check back on Friday for my review of our preseason opener, as well as an early preview of the week ahead as we get set to host the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!

2014 NFL Draft (Round 1): Three to Watch

8 May
Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

The 2014 NFL Draft commences on Thursday night as the first 32 members of the 2014 rookie class will be welcomed into the National Football League. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks are currently slotted to pick 32nd in the first round of the draft; the last pick of the first round. After scouting over 250 players that attended the scouting combine, I analyzed game film of 75 of these players, ultimately whittling this list down to 35 players I would like to see the Seahawks draft over the course of this weekend. Barring a trade either up the board or down and out of the first round entirely, here are three players I would like to see the Seahawks select at #32.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota): I believe the Seahawks will have the opportunity to draft both the best player available at #32 and a player at a position of need if Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is still on the board. Hageman would be a perfect fit along our defensive line and could be a potential replacement to Red Bryant. Hageman stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs in at 311 pounds. These numbers justify his positional fit as a defensive tackle but his speed justifies why he could be a defensive tackle/defensive end hybrid like Bryant. Hageman has one of the best bursts off the line of scrimmage of any first round defensive line prospect and can penetrate the offensive line well. Hageman is a very good fundamental tackler and has good instincts to know how a play will progress. Beating blocks is his strong suit as he does a very good job shedding blocks and being the first defender to the ball carrier on running plays. A defensive line with Hageman, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane, and Michael Bennett could be a force to be reckoned with, especially on first and second down.

Joel Bitonio (OG, Nevada): In the first round of the draft it is very important to add depth to both the defensive line and the offensive line. In the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era the Seahawks have drafted 3 offensive linemen within the first three rounds of the draft, 2 of which coming in round one (Russell Okung, James Carpenter). At #32 the Seahawks could be in the market to take an offensive lineman and I think the best fit in this spot is Nevada guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio has been climbing draft boards over the past couple of weeks and the earliest I have seen him go in any mock draft is #26 to the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most uncertain position along the Seahawks offensive line is left guard and Bitonio could add solidarity to a unit that had a difficult time keeping Russell Wilson consistently clean over the course of the 2013 season. Among Bitonio’s strengths, he has very good balance and does not allow himself to get bullied by his man. He is a very good pass protector and after watching film I could see strengths in zone blocking on running plays. Bitonio does not collapse the pocket on his own (something Carpenter has struggled with mightily over the course of his career) and Bitonio also works well with the other four guys on the offensive line.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State): Understand that the Seahawks are high on both Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette but with the departure of Golden Tate during free agency, the Seahawks could be in the market to draft another wide receiver. In a draft flooded with wide receiver talent, another toy for Russell Wilson to play with could be the decision Carroll and Schneider come to at #32. If the Seahawks go with a skill position player at #32 my hope is that player will be Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is one of the tallest receivers available which means he will be a matchup problem with most cornerbacks in the league. Benjamin makes fantastic adjustments on the ball while the pass is still in the air and his upper body strength makes it hard for just one defender to tackle him. Benjamin looks the ball into his hands and dropped passes are rare. In addition to being a “raw” prospect there are two areas where Benjamin struggles. He sometimes mistimes his jumps and his ball security is average and must improve.

Review: Seahawks 33, Falcons 10

10 Nov
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

I would like to be the first to welcome back the Seattle Seahawks that had been lost for the past couple of weeks. After I (stupidly) speculated and predicted that the Seahawks would fall into a trap and lose, the Seahawks played what I believe to be our most impressive win as we easily beat the Atlanta Falcons 33-10. The Seahawks improve to 9-1 on the season and with the results of other games around the league this week it may be time to start talking about playoff scenarios. The Falcons continue to sink further and further into a hole as they fall to 2-7. There are tons of positive things I have to touch on after a game like we played today. Here is what I saw.

Offensive Line Rotation Experiment Is a Success: When Michael Bowie was struggling through the Rams game two weeks ago I wondered why not substitute Alvin Bailey in at right tackle to try to shake things up. Today the Seahawks did that and then some. The Seahawks debuted a consistently interchanging offensive line lineup in today’s game and it worked very well, especially in the passing game. Russell Wilson’s confidence in the pocket grew as the game went on and the throws that he made were a reflection of that confidence as the Seahawks had 8 plays that went for 20 yards or more. Alvin Bailey saw playing time at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle while James Carpenter also saw time at both guard positions this week. The offensive line helped pave the way for Marshawn Lynch’s most productive game of the season on the ground (145 rushing yards and one touchdown) and only allowed one sack of quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are expected to have at least two of their injured starting offensive linemen back next week (more information in “Flash Forward”) but if we run into health problems on the offensive line in our upcoming games there is now a much better idea of what needs to happen in order to achieve maximum productivity from both our offensive line and our offense as a whole.

Bag of Tricks: The Seahawks opened up the playbook a little bit on Sunday with a gadget play that resulted in a second quarter touchdown. With 5:33 left in the second quarter Russell Wilson tossed the ball to Marshawn Lynch who appeared to run. Lynch then turned around and threw backwards to Wilson who then fired downfield and hit wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 43-yard touchdown catch to give the Seahawks 13-3 lead. This play really seemed to change the course of the entire game. The Seahawks had dominated the game on both sides of the ball up to this point in the game but the scoreboard did not reflect it. This play gave the Seahawks a double digit lead for good and the Falcons did not seem to play with any intensity after this touchdown. Although it may not be entirely necessary in the weeks ahead, if the Seahawks offense seems to get stuck, this flea flicker showed what one play can do for an entire team.

Defense Dials up the Pressure, Stays off the Field: With a 6-3 lead the Seahawks forced a Falcons punt with 6:30 left in the first half. My feeling was that if we could take five minutes off of the clock, score a touchdown, and go to halftime with a 10 point lead we would be in great shape for the second half. We scored a touchdown but it only took us 57 seconds to do so. The Lynch-Wilson-Kearse flea flicker gave the Seahawks a 13-3 lead. Then after forcing an Atlanta punt the Seahawks drove another 2:01 and kicked a 44-yard field goal. 16-3 Seahawks. The Seahawks once again forced a Falcons punt and got the ball with 1:03 left in the first half and with one second left Russell Wilson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to give the Seahawks a 23-3 halftime lead. The hope of a five minute drive resulting in a touchdown going to halftime turned into 17 points on 3 separate scoring drives in under 6 minutes going into halftime. By the time halftime finally arrived, the Seahawks had a 20 point lead, complete control of the game, and all of the momentum heading into the second half.

You can thank the defense for giving the offense these opportunities. The Seahawks defense played one of their best games of the season in all phases against the Falcons. They held Atlanta to 4/12 on 3rd down conversions, they sacked quarterback Matt Ryan twice, Walter Thurmond recovered a fumble late in the game, and what is most impressive to me; after allowing 200+ rushing yards in each of their last two games the Seahawks defense held Atlanta to 64 total rushing yards on Sunday. Bobby Wagner led all defenders with 9 tackles and Thurmond stepped in for an injured Brandon Browner and recorded 7 tackles of his own as well as two tackles for loss. Falcons receiver Roddy White had only one catch for 20 yards and on that play he was not covered by Richard Sherman. Although Sherman did not do anything super flashy, he was very successful in covering and limiting separation of the Atlanta receivers. Sherman may have had his best game of the season from a pass coverage perspective. A defense performance like the one we had on Sunday could carry serious confidence into our next two games which happen to be at home.

Fast Forward: The Seahawks were able to dominate the Falcons without 5 starters. Max Unger and Red Bryant were inactive dealing with concussions and I expect them to be ready for next week. Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung are both eligible to play next week and both practiced with the team last week and will continue to do so this week. It is very possible that we will have our opening day offensive line back healthy for next week’s game. As if our team’s health could be any better, Adam Schefter of ESPN is also reporting that wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to make his Seahawks debut next week as well. If all of these players are back I believe that the Seahawks are going to be too dangerous to stop in the coming weeks. Just imagine what today’s game would have looked like if we were completely healthy. I am starting to get very excited about what is on the horizon for this team. A dominant performance next week and I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks penciled in for the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Thoughts on Atlanta: How can a team go from being 10 yards away from the Super Bowl one season to being on the verge of a top-5 NFL Draft pick the next? The Atlanta Falcons have talent but they did not seem to play with any fire on Sunday. I think it is safe to say that the Falcons have mailed their season in. In Atlanta, fans, media, and Falcons personnel believe that Mike Smith is the best coach in Falcons history and to me it would be unfair to pull the plug on his tenure after this season, as he has taken the Falcons to the playoffs in 4 of his first 5 seasons. The Falcons could be right back to being one of the NFL’s elite teams next season and it would be wise to use their top draft pick next year on the best defensive player available as Atlanta is already quite loaded on the offensive side of the ball.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/ blue pants combination for the first time this season. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself… The Seahawks have now tied the 1983 Seahawks and the 2005 Seahawks for most regular season wins on the road. One more win on the road would give us the franchise single season record and I think would lead to us having the best regular season record in team history… The Falcons drum line was pretty annoying to listen to throughout the game. The microphone seemed to be right next to them. I don’t know if that’s just me or not but the drumming got to be more annoying as the game wore on… What was up with that unnecessary roughness penalty on Michael Bennett? Bennett sacked Matt Ryan but because he tackled him at the knees they awarded Atlanta with a 15-yard personal foul penalty instead of it going as a Seattle sack. So I guess you can’t tackle the quarterback anymore? Just another example of how questionable the officiating is and how the NFL is becoming continually sissified for player safety… Mac and Jack’s is one of the best beers out there. Glad we got a growler of it for this game… I have to give massive props to the Seahawks fans that traveled to Atlanta for this game. It seems like more and more fans are starting to travel with the team. San Francisco is our next road game and is the closest distance to Seattle of any other team. I can only imagine how many Seahawks fans are going to make the trip to Candlestick next month just like I am… I have to give even bigger props to the little kid who showed off his dance moves in the fourth quarter. I was very impressed and I got a really good laugh out of it. Even though I consider myself to be a pretty good dancer, I must say that kid could probably beat me in a dance-off… Thank god the 49ers lost to Carolina… With two straight home games coming up now is the time to create some serious space between us and San Francisco.

Seahawks Divisional and Playoff Outlook: For the rest of the regular season I will feature a Seahawks playoff outlook in my game previews and game reviews which will feature current projected seedings, matchups to watch, and potential clinching scenarios.

With the Seahawks win over the Falcons and the 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers the Seahawks currently hold a 2 ½ game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West. Next week San Francisco travels to New Orleans to play the red-hot Saints while the Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings. As it stands now, if the Seahawks win their next two games and the 49ers win their next three games heading into our week 14 matchup in San Francisco, the Seahawks could clinch the NFC West championship with a win over the 49ers. Things can and will change between now and the next three weeks however so do not get too excited just yet 12th Man.

Make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview our week 11 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Falcons Preview

9 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

On January 13th in the NFC Divisional playoffs, the Seahawks erased a 27-7 deficit and with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, the Seahawks held a 28-27 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. If they had held Atlanta it would have been the biggest comeback in franchise history and would have carried the Seahawks to the NFC Championship Game. Key words: would have. The Seahawks could not protect 35 yards in less than 30 seconds and the Falcons kicked a game winning field goal to win the game and end Seattle’s season.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

On Sunday, the Seahawks return to the Georgia Dome to face a 2-6 Falcons team that has arguably been the NFL’s most disappointing team of the 2013 season. The Seahawks are 8-1 and are looking to maintain their NFC West lead and while the Falcons have not mailed their season in just yet, they are looking to play spoiler and try to build some sort or momentum into the weeks ahead. Seattle leads the all-time series with Atlanta 8-6. Here is what you need to watch for this week against the Falcons.

Last week at home the Seahawks patchwork offensive line did not allow a sack of quarterback Russell Wilson but the pressure provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense did flush him out of the pocket on many plays. Two weeks ago against the Rams, Wilson was sacked 7 times. That game was on the road and parallels what Wilson and the offensive line faces again this week. Until Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini come back from their injuries I feel obligated to continually make the Seahawks offensive line and passing game my number one thing to watch on offense, especially in road games. After the pressure patterns that have forced Wilson out of the pocket the past couple of weeks, I believe screen passes must be a focal point of our offensive gameplan against the Falcons. Last week against Tampa Bay Doug Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers with 75 receiving yards and a touchdown. Baldwin must make a big impact again this week. Of passes caught by wide receivers last week, all but one went to three different receivers (Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse). Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters made no impact in last week’s game and I believe it will be the same story this week in Atlanta. The wild-card this week will be Golden Tate. Tate can catch screen passes while also creating room to run in the open field and he can go up and grab deep passes. If Baldwin is used short and if Kearse is targeted for moderate-length passes, it will be Tate that Atlanta should worry the most about, as he can catch any type of pass that Darrell Bevell calls.

“Roddy White? Top 100? No. I just don’t think he’s a top 100 player.” This came from cornerback Richard Sherman during NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2013” countdown during this past offseason. After Sherman’s trash talk going into last year’s Divisional playoff game and after White beat Sherman on a deep 47-yard touchdown early in that game there has been subtle tension between these two players over the past 10 months. Call it a rivalry or call it a competition, this matchup will be the one to keep an eye out for when the Seahawks are on defense. White has not played since October 7th when he injured his hamstring and he believes he will be ready to go this week. With Julio Jones out for the season, White, regardless of his health status, instantly becomes the Falcons number one wide receiver moving forward with Harry Douglas on the opposite side.

Although I suggest keeping an eye on Sherman and White, that does not mean I think that is the most important matchup for the Seahawks on defense. The secondary has done a good job shutting down receivers wide and deep the past few weeks and this week should be no different. What hurt us down the stretch of last year’s playoff game could be the same thing that gives the Seahawks defense problems this week; stopping the middle of the field and shutting down Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. If Seattle can stop the Atlanta running game to force third downs, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likes to throw in Gonzalez’s direction in the middle of the field. A strong performance by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright could limit Gonzalez’s effectiveness and will force punts. Man-to-Man coverage and limiting separation for the Falcons wide receivers could be a big ally for the Seahawks this week. Expect a conservative passing game from Ryan this week to prevent throwing into the Legion of Boom.

One of the weaknesses of the Seattle defense over the past two weeks has been stopping the run. They’ve given up an average of 202.5 rushing yards per game over this span. That does not bode well against the Falcons as they feature two very talented, yet very different running backs; power back Steven Jackson and the speedy, agile Jacquizz Rodgers. Having said this, the Falcons rank last in the league in rushing yards per game. If the Falcons are competitive and make this a close game, I believe it will be because of Jackson and Rodgers. The difference in running styles could be a disadvantage for a Seahawks defense that tends to gravitate towards making bone-rattling hits instead of fundamental tackling. The potential absence of defense end Red Bryant could also play a factor in the effectiveness of the Falcons running game. On the other hand, the Seahawks have seen Jackson twice a year dating back to 2004 so they understand what it takes to stop him. I believe if the Falcons offense shows they can be productive in the running game early on, they will try to ride Jackson and Rodgers for most of the game. One other thing to note in the Atlanta running game is the way carries are split. In their last two games, Steven Jackson has gotten 77.4 percent of the carries while Jacquizz Rodgers has gotten the remaining 22.6 percent. I think it is safe to expect a more even split-up of carries this week and the hotter hand could wind up seeing more playing time. To start the game however, expect Steven Jackson to get the first chance in the backfield and if he gets off to a cold start, they may hold off on giving Rodgers carries to try to see if they can get Jackson going later on in the first half.

The Falcons have added many new faces on defense this season and they feature an interesting mix of veteran leadership and youth in each level of the defense. According to the official Falcons depth chart on their website, their three starting linebackers have 4 years of NFL experience combined, including two rookies. It will be necessary to spotlight how the Falcons use these young linebackers when rushing the passer. Although Atlanta averages only 2 sacks per game they are facing their easiest challenge of the season as they will go up against both Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie on the left and right sides respectively. My X-Factor player to watch this week for the Falcons is rookie outside linebacker Joplo Bartu. Bartu is tied for 3rd on the team with 2.5 sacks on the season and has also recorded 42 tackles which ranks 2nd on the team. Although veteran pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and Corey Peters have been productive and cannot go unnoticed, Bartu adds a dynamic in the second level of the Atlanta defense that could give both our passing game and running game trouble. Don’t be surprised to see the Falcons use Bartu in blitz formations against Seahawks right tackle Michael Bowie. Whether he blitzes on any given play or not, the confusion that Bartu could potentially create could allow Umenyiora, Peters, or a different Falcons defensive end to beat Bowie off of the line, creating problems for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: After this game 4 of our remaining 6 games are at home. I may be stating the obvious but that is a huge advantage for us moving forward… Along the same lines (sort of) I am going to one of our remaining two road games so after we play Atlanta I will only watch one more regular season Seahawks game on television… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. The last Seahawks game they broadcasted was our loss to the Indianapolis Colts in week 5. Bad omen? Maybe… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week… My prediction: white jerseys and white pants this week, the same combination we wore in Atlanta in the playoffs last season… It’s sad that Tony Gonzalez came back for one final season to a “contender” but the Falcons season has not gone as they planned. If I were him I would have asked for a trade to a contending team at the trade deadline… This is our first 10am start since losing to the Colts… Only one more 10am kickoff after this game… A win in fantasy football this week would put me at 4-6 and a playoff push could be in my future… The Falcons do something that really annoys me. Try to hear the Georgia Dome PA announcer when the Seahawks offense faces a 3rd down. The announcer says ttttttthhhhhhhhiiiiiiirrrrrrrddddddd down with increasing pitch tone, kind of like a game show announcer if you know what I mean. Hopefully we won’t face many third downs on offense… Go Panthers. Go Cowboys… Once again, here’s the bold prediction I have told my friends and I have posted on the blog before. If we beat Atlanta this week, we will win the NFC West and will be well on our way to home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Prediction: I hope you guys are back to full health after the heart attacks the Seahawks gave us last week because this week is going to be the exact same story. Over the past couple of seasons there seems to be one game per year that leaves me beyond angry; closer to pissed off. It was our 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and our 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2012. I get a bad feeling that it could be this game this season. The Falcons will be effective in the running game and I believe we will have significant trouble stopping the Falcons offense on third down. This game will go to overtime and the Falcons will drive down the field on their first possession and score a touchdown. If the Seahawks can win the turnover battle I think we can win but I think the Falcons will find a way to pull this one out.

We have played terrible football overall the past two weeks and unfortunately this week on the road is when I think it will finally nip us in the bud. We are the better team. Unfortunately we are not completely healthy and we would definitely win this game if we were completely healthy. Of course I hope I am wrong but with the way Seattle has played the past couple of weeks you need to take a good look in the mirror if you seriously expect the Seahawks beat the Falcons easily this week, especially on the road in a hostile environment.

Falcons 26, Seahawks 20 (OT)

Check back Sunday night for my Seahawks/Falcons review and a quick look at week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. Enjoy the game and go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

7 Aug

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

Welcome to another season of Seahawks football on the blog! The Seahawks kick off the preseason tomorrow night in San Diego as they take on the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers finished 2nd in the AFC West in 2012, posting a 7-9 record. Unfortunately this mark was not good enough to save some jobs and the winds of change hit San Diego. Norv Turner was fired as head coach and former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was named head coach. Ken Whisenhunt, the former Arizona head coach is now the Chargers offensive coordinator. The Seahawks finished 11-5 last season and lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The Seahawks and Chargers last met in the preseason in 2011 when the Seahawks defeated San Diego 24-17. Even though it is the preseason here are a few things I will still have my eye on.

Russell Wilson will only see a series or two to start the game. I think we will quite a bit of Tarvaris Jackson and even more of Brady Quinn tomorrow night. Jackson was listed as the number two quarterback on the newly-released depth chart last week. The coaching staff knows what they have in Jackson and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jackson play through the first half and Quinn play the entire second half. Winning is secondary in the preseason but if the Seahawks cannot score early in the game with the first and second string units, the Seahawks will struggle to win. Based on what I have seen during training camp, Quinn has consistently struggled to move the ball during 11-on-11 drills and is very timid to make vertical throws, often choosing to check down to the running back or slot receiver. If Quinn can lead the Seahawks on a couple scoring drives he will have a much greater chance in my eyes to win the backup quarterback job.

With Percy Harvin out and Sidney Rice questionable after his knee procedure in Switzerland, many of the Seahawks young receivers will get a chance to show what they can do on Thursday night. I will be focusing on three receivers tomorrow night; Jermaine Kearse, Chris Harper, and Stephen Williams. Kearse is projected to earn a roster spot behind Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin since Percy Harvin will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The coaching staff likes Kearse a lot and he is seen as a sleeper who can stretch the field. Chris Harper is our 4th round rookie who in my opinion has not impressed much during training camp. With the play of our other receivers fighting to make the roster, Harper could wind up being a casualty when it comes time for roster cuts. Harper will need to play well during the preseason to prove he belongs on the team when we open the season against Carolina. Stephen Williams is arguably having the best camp of any wide receiver. All three quarterbacks have developed chemistry with Williams and he could also be a vertical threat. I expect to see a lot of Stephen Williams on Thursday night.

On defense for the Seahawks, I am focusing on three spots. Defensive end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker are the positions with the most question marks on defense. Tony McDaniel will get the start at defensive tackle alongside Brandon Mebane on Thursday night. McDaniel will most likely compete with Jesse Williams and Clinton McDonald for the starting defensive tackle spot. Malcolm Smith will start at outside linebacker with Bruce Irvin taking his spot on passing downs. Smith is the favorite to win this job, replacing Leroy Hill who spent 8 seasons starting at outside linebacker. Cliff Avril is nursing a foot injury and will not play Thursday night. Mike Morgan and Michael Bennett will see time at defensive end with Red Bryant on the other side.

For the San Diego Chargers, they spent the offseason trying to fix their once-dominant offense. Mike McCoy was hired as head coach, coming over from Denver where he coached one of the most explosive offenses in 2012. The Chargers used their first round draft pick on offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, which goes to show how poor the Chargers offensive line has been over the past few years and, in effect, how bad the offense has struggled as a whole. With a stronger offensive line, running back Ryan Mathews looks to bounce back after another disappointing 2012 campaign and Philip Rivers also looks to bounce back after two sub-par seasons. I am curious to see how backup running back Danny Woodhead fits into the Chargers plans. I expect to see a lot of Woodhead on Thursday night.

On defense, San Diego filled a hole at outside linebacker by signing free agent Dwight Freeney. Freeney adds veteran leadership to a position group that is more-or-less inexperienced and also adds a punch rushing the passer. One of the most notable additions for the Chargers this offseason was the drafting of linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o and Donald Butler will both start at inside linebacker and it will be interesting to see how Te’o moves around the field, given one of his weaknesses before the draft was his tackling.

Random Thoughts: First and foremost, it feels so good to be back… The Seahawks will have 9 days off before coming home to play Denver. They will then have only 6 days off before playing Green Bay and another 6-day short week before ending the preseason against Oakland… The weather forecast for Thursday night is high 60’s and partly cloudy at kickoff. We have played in the sun every time we have gone to San Diego to play in the preseason… I have been to Qualcomm Stadium to see the Mariners play the San Diego Padres 10 years ago. How that stadium ever hosted a super bowl I’ll never understand. It is a dump (but not as bad of a dump as Candlestick)… The Seahawks will wear white uniforms Thursday night. No word on pant color yet… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call on Q13 FOX this week. They will call 2 more Seahawks preseason games… I do not care if we win this game. All I hope is that we can leave San Diego injury free.

Prediction: I think the Seahawks will look a bit rusty at the beginning of the game but we will put together a couple lengthy drives that will result in points. I expect to see Brady Quinn struggle but improve as the game goes on. Unfortunately however I think that the continuity Chargers backup quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Brad Sorensen is stronger than the continuity Quinn has and that will be the difference in the game.

Chargers 23, Seahawks 13

Check back on Friday for a review of the Seahawks first preseason game of the season! Go Seahawks!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Defensive Linemen

19 Jul

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*This is part five of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Defensive Linemen on Roster (14): Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Tony McDaniel, Greg Scruggs, Jaye Howard, Clinton McDonald, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Kenneth Boatright, Michael Brooks, Benson Mayowa

The Seahawks defensive line was one of the more consistent groups on the team last season. This season the Seahawks hope to improve on one of the best run stopping units and the acquisitions made during the offseason also display Seattle’s commitment to improving the pass rush. Here are some storylines to follow during training camp.

With Bruce Irvin officially moving to outside linebacker, it is easier to predict where new Seahawks Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will line up on passing downs. Avril will most likely fill in for Red Bryant while Bennett will play along the inside. The starting defensive line will initially consist of Avril and Bryant on the outside with a rotation of Bennett, Brandon Mebane, and Tony McDaniel on the inside. When it comes to the starters, my focus while watching practice will be who will rotate in with each defensive unit.

One unknown factor heading into training camp is the health of defensive end Chris Clemons. Clemons, who tore his ACL during the Wild-Card playoff game against Washington, is ahead of schedule in his recovery and it was reported earlier in the offseason that he may be available to play week one against Carolina. If that is the case, the Seahawks will have to re-arrange the formations for passing downs to fit Clemons, Avril, and Bennett on the field. For the time being, Clemons is still recovering therefore I will not consider him to counted on for the preseason and the first regular season game. If he does get back for any time during training camp, it will definitely be a pleasant surprise to all Seahawks fans. Another injury to note, although he is still listed on the active roster, defensive end Greg Scruggs tore his ACL during the offseason and will most likely miss the 2013 season.

From a depth perspective, the Seahawks seem to be pretty stacked at defensive line. The Seahawks used two mid-round draft picks on Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams and Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill. I believe Williams could challenge for the second starting defensive tackle spot and Hill will be a quality backup used in the defensive tackle rotation. The Seahawks also return Clinton McDonald and Jaye Howard along the d-line although Howard did not see much time last season.

Among the Seahawks undrafted free agents is Kenneth Boatright. Boatright, from Southern Illinois, has the best chance of any undrafted player to make the final roster. If there is a spot for him, Boatright will be added in with Avril, Clemons, Irvin, and Bennett to a very talented pass rush formation. Of all of our defensive linemen, Boatright is the man who I am most excited to see during training camp and the preseason.

My training camp preview series will resume on Monday with a look at the safeties. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!