Film Room: Big play opportunities await in Seattle

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The second week of the preseason is upon us, and a new challenge in the form of the Seattle Seahawks lays ahead for the majority of the Dallas Cowboys depth units along with a select few regular season starters.

In the opening week of the preseason, Seattle hosted the Minnesota Vikings and pulled away in the second half with a 24-13 victory. Here are some notes from that opening preseason game with added context on how it could affect Saturday night's outing at Lumen Field against the Cowboys.

  • It took Jacksonville pulling its first-team unit for the Dallas offensive line to get into its first stride last Saturday, and with an athletic defensive line set to take the field for Seattle this week, the challenge remains for the Cowboys' group up front. The defensive line group for the Seahawks was headlined in their opener by second-year defensive end Boye Mafe who specifically caused a lot of problems in the pass game early on against the Vikings. It'll take a strong and athletic effort up front to give Cooper Rush and Will Grier time to make plays downfield.
  • However, the athleticism on the defensive line wasn't helped at all in the second level, as linebackers Devin Bush and Jon Rhattigan struggled in the first half to contain running plays that got through to the second level along with maintaining zones in coverage. The first thing that popped into my mind seeing this was an opportunity for a running back to make a big play if one can get past the athletic Seattle defensive line. I also wouldn't count out a jet sweep/end around attempt with KaVontae Turpin at some point too to get around the edge and take a Six Flags Fast Pass to the second level. For a defense that was among the bottom in the NFL in run defense a year ago, allowing just 83 yards on 3.2 yards per carry in the opener against Minnesota was a big plus, but I need to be convinced that the second level can provide a safety net to what was mostly a defensive line unit win in that department last week.
  • The opportunities for big plays aren't limited to the run game, as the Vikings found a few lapses in zone coverage downfield on their lone touchdown drive of the game. While the defensive back unit led by former full-time cornerback turned part-time safety Coby Bryant did settle into a nice groove in the opener, opportunities still existed. The biggest issue for Minnesota was buying time with a collapsing pocket for most of the night. In my book, the money will be made in the second level and I'm specifically looking at KaVontae Turpin and John Stephens Jr. to get active in this area of the defense on quick plays, especially if the offensive line starts to struggle.
  • Offensively for Seattle, a large handful of guys got a healthy amount of action and one guy specifically caught my eye. Third-year offensive lineman Stone Forsythe played 45 snaps at left tackle and excelled in pass protection while holding his own in the run game as well. Standing at a massive 6-foot-9, 312 pounds, Forsythe has killer punch power that will certainly take a hit or two to get used to. This could present a fun challenge for athletic guys like Sam Williams, Isaiah Land, Ben Banogu and others to counter Forsythe's power with a little bit of finesse and agility.
  • It's still undetermined if Geno Smith and the entirety of the first-team offense will get playing time on Saturday night. Regardless, expect backup Drew Lock to take the majority of the snaps going into the fourth quarter before seeing lefty Holton Ahlers finish things off. Lock and Ahlers present a challenge to the Dallas defense with their athleticism and ability to extend plays outside of the pocket. I think this bodes well for guys like Damone Clark and DeMarvion Overshown to show their ability to limit what comes out of the backfield when they're in the game. Even aside from a possible QB hit or two, I think it could be yet another fun game for the young linebacker duo.
  • Lastly, the special teams unit for Seattle impressed every time it hit the field last week. The unit's strong play was highlighted by a muffed punt recovery that would have been a walk-in touchdown if the play was not ruled dead, but it was the intensity and speed of the kickoff unit that stood out to me. Flying to the ball and getting to the returner resulted in Minnesota not seeing a returned kickoff get further than the 20-yard line. In the return game, expect first round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba to get an opportunity in the punt game and don't sleep on cornerback Tre Brown who saw a healthy kick return in the opener in his own right.

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