Double Impact …5 Keys to Victory for the Seahawks vs. the Redskins …
[Hank Williams, Jr playing:] “Are you ready for some football?” Yeah Baby, here we are at long last – back in the playoffs! Seattle finished the 2012 regular season 11-5 – just the 3rd time in franchise history that the Seahawks have topped the 11 win mark. But of course … the Hawks have their sights set on a much higher prize – the Lombardi Trophy. The Seahawks enter the playoffs on a hot streak, having won 7 of their last 8 games and outscoring teams 170-43 over their last 4 games. They are a team that no one truly wants to play. Well on Sunday, the Hawks face another team that enters the playoffs equally hot – the Washington Redskins. I said back at the end of November that this Redskin team was one to keep an eye on, and they certainly proved that, winning their last 7 games in a row. For most of this season, most of the national discussion surrounding who will win Offensive Rookie of the Year has centered on the first 2 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft – the Colts Andrew Luck … and the Redskins Robert Griffin III. After the Bear Beat-down in Chicago though, the rest of the country woke up to the fact that there was a 3rd Candidate – one who hadn’t been handed his job from Day 1 … an unheralded too short 3rd Round Pick who actually had to earn his position as the starting quarterback of an NFL Team … and to prove that he belonged week in and week out – Seattle’s Russell Wilson. This Sunday afternoon it’s Griffin and Wilson – mano a mano – each with a chance to pad their resume … and to get one step closer to football’s ultimate prize. Here are 5 Keys to Victory for the Seahawks as they face Griffin and this high powered Redskin Team …
For those who've been following, we've covered 2 of the 5 Keys so far. For those who missed them though, here are the links to those pieces and the discussions that follow ... Key #1: Put a Governor on the Twin Engine Race Car …Key #2: Contain the Clone …
We turn our attention next to an element of this game that will be central for the Hawks, especially playing in a hostile environment this Sunday ...Double the Guard and Defend the Frontier …
This past Sunday, pass protection issues (which had not been an issue all season long for this team) reared up like the Kraken out of the deep to terrorize the Seahawks on their own home turf. The Rams came in to that game having sacked opposing QB's 46 times on the season (3rd Most in the league). They ended it tied for the #1 spot in the NFL after sacking Russell Wilson 5 times on the day.
The Hawks Offensive Line has got to do a better job of pass protection this coming weekend, as they are facing a defense, who under Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett LOVES to blitz and bring pressure to bear on opposing quarterbacks. Pete Carroll talked this week about his relationship with Haslett and about having known him since Haslett’s playing days when Carroll was the DB Coach for the Bills. The Seahawks are going to have to rely on a bit of that familiarity in preparing for this team, as the onus for protecting Russell Wilson from the onslaught of these Redskin defenders will ultimately fall squarely on the shoulders of Seattle’s Offensive Line.
While the Seahawk and Redskin offenses are highly similar … those comparisons begin to drop away when you turn to the other side of the ball. The Redskins 3-4 Defense relies heavily on blitz packages from its linebackers to generate pressure on opposing QB’s -- very similar to that of some of the defenses that the Steelers run under Dick LeBeau. The linebackers are the true strength of this Redskins defense … and Haslett has called their number with great regularity this year. Haslett dialed up a steady diet of blitzes against the Cowboys last week, confusing and flustering Tony Romo in to throwing 3 interceptions which ultimately sealed the book on Dallas for the year.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the match-ups across the formation this week … NT Barry Cofield vs. C Max Unger …Center Max Unger (6’5” 305 Pounds)
finally got the recognition he deserved this year, as he received a nice Christmas Present from Santa in the form of being named the NFC’s Starter in the Pro Bowl. It was an honor well deserved, as Unger did not allow a sack this season and had only 1 False Start to his name this year. This Sunday, Unger will be going up NT Barry Cofield (6’4” 318 pounds)
, who had himself a solid season this year (36 Tackles … 2.5 Sacks … 2 Tackles for Loss … and 6 Passes Defensed). Good pass protection starts right up the middle and as you can see from the numbers right there, Cofield has been very good at getting his hands up and swatting down passes. Unger has got to keep Cofield occupied so that Russell Wilson can find those passing lanes this week.RDE Stephen Bowen, RILB Perry Riley, and ROLB Rob Jackson vs. LT Russell Okung and LG Paul McQuistan…
As you well know, Left Tackle Russell Okung (6’5” 310 pounds)
will be joining Unger in Hawaii, as he will be the NFC’s starting LT in the Pro Bowl. Though he hasn’t made anyone forget about Walter Jones, Okung has provided good pass protection on the season, as he allowed only 2 Sacks this season. Still, Okung IS vulnerable to speed rushers, as he was beat by DE Robert Quinn last week for a sack. LG Paul McQuistan (6’6” 315 pounds), has been very good in pass protection this year as well. According to Pro Football Weekly
, McQuistan allowed only .5 Sacks and had only 3 holding penalties in the regular season. Though they won’t be facing pass rushers nearly as dangerous as the ones last week, Okung and McQuistan still will need to be on their guard as they will have no idea who exactly will be coming at them on any given play.RDE Stephen Bowen (6’5” 310 pounds)
is a big man who (like Red Bryant) though he hasn’t filled up the stat sheet much … he makes it possible for others to make plays because he occupies blockers. RILB Perry Riley (6’0” 238 pounds)
, the former LSU Tiger, came in to the league in 2010 with a reputation of being able to stop the run, make tackles, and provide good pass coverage. Perry has done exactly that, as he is the 2nd leading tackler on the Redskins (129 Tackles), has done a decent job of making things happen in the backfield (3.5 Sacks and 2 Tackles for Loss), and provided excellent coverage in zone for a linebacker (7 Passes Defensed on the year). Standing next to him, ROLB Rob Jackson (6’4” 266 pounds)
hasn’t been as productive in terms of pure tackles this season (only 37 Tackles on the season) … but like Perry, he has gotten in the backfield this season with a fair amount of regularity (4.5 Sacks and 5 Tackles for Loss). In terms of coverage, Jackson has actually been a bit better in zone coverage this year (7 Passes Defensed and 4 interceptions). It was Jackson who intercepted Romo for the 3rd time in the 4th Quarter and set up the Redskins final touchdown to seal the win. He’s a guy with a great deal of athleticism back there, so the Offensive Line better be ready for him in particular this week.LDE Jarvis Jenkins, LILB London Fletcher, and LOLB Ryan Kerrigan vs. RT Breno Giacomini and RG J.R. Sweezy…
As was the case last week, the Right Side of Seattle’s Offensive Line is the primary concern in terms of this game. RT Breno Giacomini (6’7” 318 pounds)
comes in to this match-up with the Redskins having only allowed 4.0 Sacks on the season
... but clearly would have probably allowed more were it not for the nimble feet and quick release of Russell Wilson. The 4 holding penalties he was guilty of this year were clearly the result of having been beaten by his defender and not wanting to get Russell Wilson killed. He was also guilty of 4 False Starts this season, so can get a little jumpy if anticipating a rush coming. Breno had a rough game last week against a very good Rams Front 4, as he gave up 2 of Seattle’s 5 sacks, was beaten by William Hayes in the 2nd Quarter on a play in which Lynch got stuffed in the backfield for a 4 yard loss, and got himself another False Start flag to add to his collection. Breno was somewhat limited last week due to an elbow issue, so even though the injury report doesn’t have him listed -- that’s definitely something to keep an eye on. J.R. Sweezy (6’5” 298 pounds)
once again gets the nod at RG … but his inexperience showed up last week in a big way against a very talented Defensive Line. Sweezy was manhandled by Williams Hayes for a sack in the 1st Quarter … flat out didn’t see Chris Long coming in the 2nd Quarter and ended up blocking the wrong man for Sack #2 in the 2nd Quarter … and was also beaten by Hayes in the 3rd Quarter for what would have been a sack on the same play that Giacomini got beat by Chris Long for the eventual sack. So, 4 of the 5 Sacks that the Seahawks allowed last week came from the right side of the Seahawks line. For a guy who’s only started 3 games to have given up 2 Sacks is a concerning stat for sure. Why is a converted Defensive Tackle (who has still this team’s starting RG? Pete Carroll addressed that this week, saying that Sweezy was the most athletically talented lineman that the Seahawks have. That certainly showed up in the 49ers game big time, as Lynch averaged 4.5 yards/carry and the offensive line allowed a mere 1 QB hit against arguably the best run defense in the NFL. He and Giacomini are going to need to bring more of that kind of performance to bear on Sunday.
The first opponent Breno Giacomini and Sweezy will see a lot of on Sunday is 2nd year player out of Clemson LDE Jarvis Jenkins (6’4” 315 Pounds)
. Like Bowen, he takes up space so that the guys behind him can antagonize and disrupt. And boy have the linebackers behind him been disruptive. Though he’s a robust 37 year old, LILB London Fletcher (5’10” 248 pounds)
is still one of the very best in the game. Fletcher led the team with 139 Tackles (8th Best in the league) and finished with 3 Sacks and 3 Tackles for Loss. Fletcher continues to be one of the league’s surest tacklers and has provided remarkable pass coverage as well (11 Passes Defensed and 5 interceptions) – he’s certainly one to keep an eye on this Sunday. But the most productive in terms of knocking quarterbacks on their kiester this season has been LOLB Ryan Kerrigan (6’4” 260 pounds)
who led the team with 8.5 Sacks … and had 4 Tackles for Loss. Like Fletcher, he too has been lights out in pass coverage, garnering 8 Passes Defensed and an interception on the year. The right side of Seattle’s line is going to have to be solid especially against Kerrigan on Sunday or he’s going to give Russell Wilson a Gillooly.
In terms of purely penetration in to the backfield though, the Redskins Front 7 has been decidedly mediocre. The Redskins finished with only 42 Tackles for Loss this year (25th Best -- just 6 more than the Seahawks who were the worst in TFL’s this season) ... and had only 32 Sacks on the year (23rd most in the league). Football Outsiders
concurs with that assessment, as they rank Washington’s Defensive Line (their Front 7) #25 overall in terms of their Pass Rush. The Seahawks Offensive Line hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with their pass protection either (Football Outsiders has them ranked #20 in Pass Protection.
), but it hasn’t exactly gotten them burned this season either. Seattle allowed just 64 Quarterback Hits on the year (tied for 5th Fewest), as Russell Wilson showed an amazing ability to scramble out of pressure, avoid the big hit, and buy time for his receivers to get open. So we’ll see how that all shakes out in the end.
One thing’s for certain, if the Redskins DO blitz as much as it sounds like they might … it means that someone’s going to be open. And that leads us in to the next part of our discussion … (to be continued)