Go Hawks! (Arizona Preview)
The Seattle Seahawks enter this Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with an opportunity to be tied for 1st place at the end of the weekend. If that somehow occurs, this will be the worst first place team in the history of the NFL. Ok, that is a little hyperbole. Still…..this team is pretty bad. At least so far. What evidence do I have to support this claim?
Last in the NFL in offensive yards and second to last in points scored.
Ranked 24th in points allowed and tenth in yards allowed (best aspect to the team so far).
Last in the NFL in rushing yards.
Ranked 28th in passing yards.
Ranked 27th in converting third downs.
Last in the NFC in giveaway/takeway ratio.
Ranked 28th in sacks with only two thus far.
Tied for 2nd in the league in penalties with 17.
Just awful statistics that back what you and I see on the field. A team who is struggling mightily. A lot of things will need to go right for the Hawks to win this weekend, although they will be boosted by the 12th man and playing their home opener. For Seattle to come away victorious, they will need to be very good in a few areas. Here is what you should watch for:
Things to Watch
1. The Run Game
The Seahawks rested running back Marshawn Lynch in the preseason to the point where people began questioning his health. Head Coach Pete Carroll and others simply stated that they wanted to rest him. Apparently they are continuing this restful period into the regular season as Lynch has only 19 carries in two games. Granted, he hasn’t done much with those carries in gaining only 44 yards (2.3 y/c). Regardless of the struggles, the Hawks will absolutely have to remain commmitted to moving the ball on the ground. Justin Forsett may need to factor in, but I would like to see Leon Washington get some touches on offense. With the new kicking rules, he is effectively taken out of the return game. In the preseason, Washington looked the best behind a new offensive line. In two games, he has ONE carry. This all needs to change Sunday.
2. Jackson Looking Downfield
One of the big discussion points regarding the Seahawk offense this season so far is whether Tarvaris Jackson is playing it too safe. With a 5.4 yards per attempt average, Jackson is clearly looking for his checkdowns. While coaches may like the fact that Jackson hasn’t been making mistakes, it is clear that the Hawks need to make some bigger plays. Mike Williams has five catches and only eight targets toward him, including an incredible zero targets in the first half of games so far. With Sidney Rice making his debut, Jackson needs to take a chance. Why sit back and hope five yards passes will work? Go for it Tarvaris. At 0-2, you have nothing to lose.
3. Linebackers Need to Make Plays
The Seahawks top three tacklers on the year are safety Earl Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor, and cornerback Brandon Browner. The only linebacker with any significant tackle numbers is Aaron Curry and he has nine over two games. He is also the only LB with a pass deflection and it was a dropped interception. No one else is making plays. The running backs are getting past the second level of the defense or the opponents are just chucking the ball down the field on the Hawks. With the news that K.J. Wright is now in open competition for the SAM spot with Curry, the Hawks will be looking for just any linebacker to make plays. If they can pile up some tackles, the Hawks may have better success today.
4. Third Down Conversions
The Seahawks will need to put some drives together in order to beat the Cardinals. Thus far on the season, Seattle is 7 for 27 on third down for a 25.9 conversion percentage. They will need to be much better than that obviously. As a comparison, teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Minnesota are all around 40% and in the middle of the pack in the NFL. For the Seahawks to compete, they need to make more plays. Third down will be a big part of that.
Who to Watch
If the Seahawks are going to win, they will need to figure out what to do with Larry Fitzgerald. Marcus Trufant needs to return to his shutdown days (which were very short) and the D-Line needs to put some pressure on Kevin Kolb. The Seahawks held Fitz to 3 catches in one victory last year and seven in the other win in 2010. In neither game did he collect 100 yards receiving. In 2009, Fitzgerald put up 20 catches in both games which not coincidentally were both Cardinals victories.
The Rams are beat up and facing a crazy schedule to start the year. They could very easily lose to Baltimore (coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee) to move to 0-3 on the year. San Francisco plays Cincinnati which could be a win and probably should be. Yet if the Bengals can pull it off, the 49ers fall to 1-2. Then if somehow the 12th man helps the Hawks get a win today, they would be tied for first place at 1-2. That is hilarious to me.