The Seahawks return home this week to take on the Carolina Panthers at Lumen Field. I feel a little uneasy about this one. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent a lot of time this week studying up on the problems with the Seattle run defense. More on that later.
Coming into Week 14, the Panthers are at 4-8. They have a smashmouth run game, aggressive in-your-face pounding that can exhaust a defense. Since Christian McCaffrey was traded off to the 49ers, running back D’Onta Foreman has stepped it up significantly, rushing over 100 yards in at least a couple of games these past few weeks. The Panther have had a revolving door of quarterbacks: Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker. Mayfield was traded to the Rams on Tuesday. On Thursday, took his new (to him) offense for a 98-yard touchdown drive to beat the Raiders in the final seconds of the game. We’ll get to see Baker in Week 18. Back to this week, however, Sam Darnold will get the start for the Panthers.
I only have two things on my wish list this week. Forgive me in advance for the redundancy. Here it is:
- Stop the run. Like I said, I’ve taken a bit of a deep dive of late to learn more about the problems the Seahawks are having in defending the run. It’s complicated and a little depressing. The biggest issue is winning at the line of scrimmage, essentially stopping the run before it can get started. The Hawks aren’t doing that. There are attendant difficulties with covering gaps. There are also bigger questions around talent relative to scheme. It’s plenty to be concerned about. In his article this week in The Athletic, Michael-Shawn Dugar said, “There isn’t an easy solution for improving run defense, which is why Seattle has found new ways to be bad at it each week.” But if the Hawks can somehow figure out a way to tap down the Panther’s run game, it could force Sam Darnold to take the game to the air, much like the Geno Smith was forced to do against the Rams last week. If Darnold has to pass the ball a lot, I believe the Seahawks secondary can effectively shut him down. But to get to that point, the defense has to stop the run. Football is such a study in yin-yang.
- Run the ball. The Seahawks run game was pretty much decimated by injuries last week. But it had actually been sputtering for the last couple of games. As the Divine whispered in my ear a few posts ago, running the ball is the key to everything – healthy relationships, robust health, great wealth and winning football games. Kenneth Walker III and DeeJay Dallas, both of whom were injured last Sunday, did not practice this week. Their participation on Sunday will be a gametime decision. The good news is that Travis Homer is back. This will help. The more they successfully run the ball, the more time they possess it. And the more time of possession for the offense, the more the defense gets to rest. And the more the defense gets to rest, the higher probability they will be able to stop the opponent from running the ball. Yin-yang.
Player to watch this week: Tony Jones Jr. If Walker and Dallas are indeed out on Sunday, Tony Jones Jr. could be busy. While he didn’t crank out many yards against the Rams last week, he ran with a lot of power and grit. If sheer determination can move the ball down the field, Jones Jr. will make a difference.