In my continued series of summer breakdowns for upcoming Cowboys' opponents, I focus today on the Seattle Seahawks – the Week Two matchup on Sept. 16 at the newly-named CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
When I first saw the Seahawks play live at Cowboys Stadium in 2009, I thought they were one of the least talented teams in the league. Under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, they have totally retooled their roster at several positions but the one position they have struggled the most is at quarterback since the front office made the decision to cut ties with long time signal-caller Matt Hasselback before the 2011 season. The Seahawks have used Seneca Wallace, Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson before spending money this past spring on Matt Flynn from the Green Bay Packers after he had made two career starts against the Patriots and Lions.
When I studied the Seahawks against the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles in 2011, Jackson was the quarterback and you could tell offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell clearly tailored the offense to fit his style of play. It was similar to a college spread attack with a great deal of shotgun and three wide receivers. Bevell tried to play to Jackson's strength of some read option with Marshawn Lynch and a quick passing game with Mike Williams, Sidney Rice and Ben Obomanu.
Bevell liked to use Rice on slants but the problem with that is that Rice is more of a downfield player and doesn't like to fight inside for the ball because by natural, he is a body catcher and it's a tough pass to complete when the receiver doesn't extend his hands to catch the ball in traffic. Obomanu was mainly effective on screens. Against the Giants in the red zone, on a third down, he took a nice bubble screen going to his left and turned it into six points.
At tight end, the Seahawks have some potential matchup problems for the Cowboys with the athletic Zach Miller who is not much of a point-of-attack blocker but can get up the field to make plays. Where the Cowboys safeties have to be careful is that in the Red Zone, Bevell will send his tight ends vertical up the hashes which he did twice against the Giants. The Seahawks went out in the off season and also added Kellen Winslow from Tampa Bay to go along with Miller. Winslow like Miller can get up the field and can line up anywhere in the formation and run routes.
On the offensive line, I really like center Max Unger and when I studied him against Jay Ratliff last season, he played very well. He is athletic enough to match Ratliff's quickness. Unger does a nice job of playing on his feet, rarely do you see him on the ground. The weakness of this line is at tackle where Russell Okung is on the left side and Breno Giacomini is on the right. Okung is very similar in how Doug Free plays, really good feet but no power. There were times where Jason Pierre-Paul or DeMarcus Ware were able to walk him back into the quarterback. Giacomini took over in mid season from Chris Spencer and was a stable player. He has more strength than Okung but he is not near the athlete. I would expect that Rob Ryan takes Ware from the right side and uses him on the left when these two teams meet just to put some pressure on the Seahawks protection.
In my view, the best offensive player on the Seahawks is running back Marshawn Lynch. in the three games I studied, he average 6.9 yards a carry. Lynch is the type of back that keeps coming after you. His running style is slam - bam much like Marion Barber but he has the speed to bounce the ball around the corner and into the secondary. He is a back that needs multiple defenders to get him on the ground. Lynch is also an outstanding pass catcher and can make you pay in the open field. If Matt Flynn beats Jackson out for the quarterback job, the Seahawks offense will be built more around Lynch and I feel it will be more of a traditional offense with balance.
On defense, the Seahawks were in the bottom half of the league when it came to sacks per attempt. It's a four man line that really didn't have a pressure player. Defensive end Chris Clemons is the one player that can get up the field but other than that, there is no help. This spring the Seahawks went out and added defensive tackle Jason Jones from the Titans and rookie Bruce Irvin from West Virginia. Jones gave Leonard Davis fits several years ago and Irvin is an undersized explosive player off the edge.
The secondary is better at safety than it is at corner. Kam Chancellor is a banger in space and Earl Thomas does a much better job playing in space than he does near the line. You can see where teams try and take advantage of Chancellor in coverage with match ups. The better of the two corners is Brandon Browner with his ability to be a factor in the running game playing off the blocks on the edge but he will also bite on routes. Dez Bryant ran a pretty shutter - go that totally froze Browner for a big gain.
The Seahawks are no longer that talent poor team that I saw here in 2009. There is the potential of a new quarterback and a couple of pressure players on defense plus having to load up and make the trip to one of the best home field advantages in the NFL at CenturyLink Field should make this a difficult game for the Cowboys who were able to handle the Seahawks last season at Cowboys Stadium 23-13. My thought is that it will be a much closer game than that this time.