Our list of five Seahawks to watch against Tampa Bay Sunday includes strong safety Kam Chancellor and receiver Tyler Lockett.
Here are five Seahawks players to watch in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, in no particular order:
RB Thomas Rawls: The dangerous thing about Sunday is a Tampa Bay offense averaging more than 28 points the last five games, scoring 34 or more twice. The best way to quiet an opposing offense, especially on the road, is with some long time-churning drives. And the biggest key to doing that for the Seahawks would be a complete return to 2015 form of Rawls, who appears set to get just his second start this season. Rawls showed promising signs last week with 57 yards on 14 carries in his first game since Sept. 18. But maybe somewhat ominously, coach Pete Carroll talked after the game of the punishment Rawls had taken, saying at one point Monday that Rawls had been “thrashed.’’ With injuries to other tailbacks and the ranks thinned by the release of Christine Michael, the Seahawks are going to need to be able to count on Rawls for significant work week-in and week-out, beginning Sunday. That may require Rawls to somewhat temper his instincts to seek out contact at every turn.
RB Alex Collins: The injuries to C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope mean the Seahawks will now turn to Collins and recently-signed George Farmer to provide backup and complementary carries behind Rawls. The injuries to Prosise/Pope provide an especially good opportunity for Collins, who seemed relegated to being the odd man out when he was inactive last week with Pope promoted to the active roster. But now the Seahawks basically have no choice but to call on Collins and hope he shows more than he did earlier this season — he has just 19 yards on 10 carries this season. Carroll spoke predictably confidently of Collins this week, and intriguingly noted that Collins had gotten in better shape than he was earlier this season. “He’s kind of reconditioned himself,’’ Carroll said. “He looks much better than he did in the off-season when we were getting ready and even in camp. I think he’s found a new level of conditioning that really suits him well, he looks quick and explosive.’’ The proof of all of that will come Sunday.
WR Tyler Lockett: Injuries earlier in the season limited both Lockett’s playing time and production. Lockett is now healthy but his production has largely come in fits and starts — he had two catches for 39 yards last week, 30 on one play. Maybe this is the game he has a true breakout with Tampa Bay somewhat short-handed in the secondary with cornerback Brent Grimes questionable with a quad strain and nickelback Jude Adjei-Barimah suspended four games this week for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. That could also obviously help Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. But the deeper the Bucs’ have to go in their secondary, maybe Lockett and some of Seattle’s other WRs can also find favorable matchups.
SS Kam Chancellor: It will be interesting to see if Chancellor’s role changes any with Earl Thomas set to miss the first game of his NFL career — and maybe goes without saying but also the first that Chancellor has also played with the Seahawks. The Seahawks have always rotated their safeties a little bit — you see Chancellor a few plays a game end up playing deep — and maybe Seattle would look for some different ways to use Chancellor with Thomas out. Regardless, Chancellor projects to have a key role in likely taking the lead in defending underrated Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate, a third-year player from Harvard having something of a breakout season with 37 receptions — third on the team — for 393 yards and five touchdowns, the latter tying the most for a tight end in the NFL (Jimmy Graham has four).
SLB Kevin Pierre-Louis: I’m taking somewhat of a flyer here in thinking Brock Coyle won’t have to start and that they’ll go with Pierre-Louis as his replacement. But there’s some grounding in that thought. Coyle was listed as doubtful with a foot injury on Friday — the other four players the Seahawks this year listed as doubtful did not play on Sunday. If Coyle is out, then Pierre-Louis – healthy again after missing last week with a hamstring injury — would seem in line to start, as he did for the Atlanta game (he wasn’t an official starter because the Seahawks started in nickel but he played SLB in that game). But remember that Mike Morgan is due back next week for the Carolina game after being on IR following sports hernia surgery. So that means this could be the last chance this season for Pierre-Louis, a fourth-round pick in 2014, to start. Pierre-Louis has just 24 tackles in three seasons, having battled a few nagging injuries along the way, and will be entering the final season of his contract next year, having as of yet to establish a significant role on the team.