The Seattle Seahawks are in their third season under Pete Carroll and what was once a talent-poor team before he arrived has improved in many areas on both sides of the ball. Since the Seahawks made the decision to part ways with Matt Hasselback, they have struggled to find a quarterback to lead this team. The front office has tried with trades and spending money through free agency, but have for the time being settled with rookie Russell Wilson, who they drafted in the third round out of Wisconsin.
In the battle for the starting quarterback job, Wilson was really an afterthought with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson appearing to be the frontrunners for the job. But Wilson was able to come into games during the preseason and play with poise and an understanding beyond his experience.
What surprised me about Wilson in his first regular-season start was that you didn't see him use his feet as much as he did in the preseason. Where he hurt opponents was in his ability to escape trouble. The Cardinals did a nice job of pressuring him and making him throw over the top of the defense. Look for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to do more of trying to move Wilson in the pocket and on the edge.
For the second week in a row, the Cowboys are going to have to deal with a physical, downhill runner in Marshawn Lynch, who is a nice combination of power with some jump-cut ability. The Seahawks scheme is that of a zone-blocking team, which allows Lynch to read the blocks, see the hole, then attack.
The best player on this offense line is center Max Unger, who the Cowboys were trying to grab in the 2009 NFL Draft only to see the Seahawks trade up to get ahead of them. Josh Brent had a really nice game in the opener against the Giants and will really be tested this week to back that performance up. Unger is one of those rare centers that can cut a defense in half with his technique. He has a feel for how to secure the down man first then by feel work to the next level. There is a chance that rookie J.R. Sweezy makes his second start at right guard, which would be a positive thing for the Cowboys because of the way he struggled against the Cardinals.
In the Arizona game, the Seahawks played without wide receiver Golden Tate, a factor I believe really hurt them. Throughout the preseason, he was their most consistent player on the outside, and in a game where Russell Wilson needed playmakers, it showed. Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards were able to make catches during the game, but when it came down to crunch time, neither was able to deliver. There is a chance that Tate plays with the knee injury, although we will have to wait and see later in the week if that is the case.
After Week 1 of the NFL season, the Seahawks sit third in the league on total defense. In studying their game against the Cardinals, it's clear that if you don't deal with defensive end Chris Clemons, you are going to have problems throwing the ball. Clemons is a veteran player that will line up as the weak-side end, so both Tyron Smith and Doug Free will get a crack at him. Clemons has explosive quickness and gets on the tackles in a hurry. The majority of his work has been done on the edge, but similar to the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul last week, Clemons will try and mix up his rushes and work inside, too. I was very impressed with his ability to get to the corner, get his inside arm through, dip his shoulder and finish the rush. Clemons is a hard guy to run away from once he is in chase mode.
If you remember from the Giants game, there were some struggles inside with their defensive tackles. The Seahawks have a disruptive guy themselves in Brandon Mebane, who is shorter but never stops attacking the pocket. Mebane is a square player that really does a nice job of working down the line. Look for center Ryan Cook when uncovered to help Nate Livings or Mackenzy Bernadeau if Mebane is to that side.
Defensive end Red Bryant has good size and will play on the strong side opposite Clemons. Bryant is a good run player, but not much against the pass while backup Jason Jones is. Jones can get up field and will play with leverage. Clemons and Jones can really squeeze the pocket when on the rush. Jones also gets his hands up to knock down passes. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes to shift his front and make you try and block them on the move. You will see the line slant one way and the linebackers the other.
In the secondary, other than free safety Earl Thomas, it's a group with some size. Corner Brandon Browner and safety Kam Chancellor both are over 6-3 and 220 pounds. Left corner Richard Sherman is 6-2 and 195 pounds. As a unit, they like to get their hands on the receivers and rough them up. Sherman, in my view, is the best of the two corners when it comes to reactions and staying in position during the route. He's the type of corner that battles you down the field, and showed some good sideline awareness in keeping his feet in bounds on an interception of Arizona's John Skelton. Browner, physically, is a long player that isn't as quick as Sherman. Marcus Trufant plays as the nickel in this scheme.
The safeties are interchangeable so there are times when you will see Thomas near the line and Chancellor back, although you do see many times where Thomas is locked up in man coverage. Thomas is the better cover man and blitzer, but Chancellor will deliver a blow if he is given a shot. The Seahawks will also do something scheme-wise that is very similar to what Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan does with his safeties: Rookie safety Winston Guy will line up as a linebacker like Barry Church and Danny McCray do. In this game, watch to see if Guy draws Witten in coverage or if that duty falls to Thomas.