Tag Archives: San Jose State

Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!

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Senior Bowl Review: Five To Watch

17 Feb
Image

Margus Hunt

It has been a nice break but I am back and blogging for the 2013 season! A week before the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers to claim Super Bowl XLVII, the best seniors eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft were invited to play in the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl, for those who are not familiar or interested in the game, is an all-star game featuring upcoming NFL Draft prospects. Unless specially invited, all of the players who participate are seniors in college. The Senior Bowl is a big event for players who are expected to be drafted in the later rounds of the draft. Based on their play in this game their draft stock can rise or fall a great amount. Last season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson participated in the Senior Bowl and played well. He was eventually taken in the third round (75th overall) by the Seahawks which was higher than his projected range of selection before the Senior Bowl and other scouting events.

After watching the game, I have made a preliminary short-list of players who I would be interested in having the Seahawks draft. These five players are players who impressed me while I watched the game and also who I think Coach Carroll and John Schneider may be interested in based on areas of need on the roster at this point and the physical attributes of each of the players.

Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU

Ansah is the only player on my list who I believe we would have to trade up in the draft to take. Before the Senior Bowl, Ansah was projected in many mock drafts as a pick in the 20-30 overall range. The Seahawks pick 25th in the first round and would have been in play for Ansah in their own slot. After this game however, I believe Ansah’s stock has risen dramatically. “Ziggy” as he is known at BYU, had 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. He was also named defensive player of the game. Ansah always seemed to be around the play and when he contributed he was a monster. Ansah is 6-5, 274 pounds and as a senior last year at BYU he recorded 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Although the sacks total is not that high he played tough. His most valuable asset in my opinion is his speed. He can penetrate the offensive line quickly and make plays. More tests and drills will be conducted at the combine and at his pro day between now and the draft but at this point, I believe he will not be around if the Seahawks stay at 25. It will take a trade to move up if Ansah will be playing in a Seahawks uniform in 2013.

My Projection: 10-15 Overall.

Margus Hunt, Defensive End, SMU

This is a guy who really intrigues me. Margus Hunt is a 6-8 defensive end who recorded 9 sacks last season at SMU. His height was highlighted multiple times during the broadcast and is my focus as to why I have included him on this list. The obvious comparison is to Houston defensive end J.J. Watt. Watt is a dominant pass rusher and an expert at batting passes down. His ability to jump up to bat passes down has earned him the nickname “J.J. Swat” for good reason. Imagine Hunt on our defensive line. As a replacement for the injured Chris Clemons, I could see Hunt as a pass rushing force alongside Bruce Irvin and his height makes it easy to speculate he could have an effect at the line of scrimmage similar to J.J. Watt. Although he is not projected to be a first round pick by many “experts” I could definitely see Hunt being another “reach” pick by Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Don’t be surprised to see Hunt’s name tied to the Seahawks between now and the draft.

My Projection: Round 1-2.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Cornerback, Connecticut

I am not expecting the Seahawks to re-sign Marcus Trufant over the offseason. If that is the case the Seahawks may be in the market for another cornerback. Enter Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The 6-1, 192 pound cornerback from Connecticut caught my eye with his decent play in zone coverage, however there have been on-the-field red flags concerning his speed and his ability to play man coverage. Because of these concerns, some have said his draft stock has fallen. If that turns out to be true he could turn out to be one of John Schneider’s classic mid-round steals of the draft. Wreh-Wilson would not be a starter with the Seahawks but I think he could be a guy who could play in the nickel package effectively.

My Projection: Round 4

David Quessenberry, Offensive Tackle, San Jose State

Luckily the Seahawks offensive line did not suffer any lingering injuries in 2012, helping keep continuity intact. If there had been injuries last season, I think our offensive line depth was not the best and could be subject to changes during the offseason. If there was one offensive lineman I would like to see us draft for value this year it is David Quessenberry. He is the most versatile lineman in the draft in my opinion. He played three years at offensive tackle at San Jose State but practiced at offensive guard during Senior Bowl practice. He played both positions during the game. He can also be used at center if needed. Physically he looks the part (6-5, 294 pounds) and plays the part with surprising quickness and good blocking technique. Among centers and guards eligible for the 2013 draft, Quessenberry is the #3 rated pass protector/blocker and the #5 rated run blocker according to waterfootball.com. I think Quessenberry would be a great addition to our offensive line group.

My Projection: Round 4

Jack Doyle, Tight End, Western Kentucky

I believe the Seahawks need a couple more offensive weapons for Russell Wilson. I would like to see us draft a wide receiver primarily and if we are looking for another tight end, Jack Doyle may be our choice. Doyle is more of a receiving tight end than a blocking tight end; by using him that could free up our other receivers. He is 6-6 and led the Hilltoppers in receiving yards last season with 530. Western Kentucky also runs a west-coast offense so Doyle would be somewhat familiar with the Seahawks offensive playbook. Jack Doyle could definitely be a value pick and be a solid number two option opposite Zach Miller, should the Seahawks decide to part ways with Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah.

My Projection: Round 6-7