Without Luke Joeckel at left guard, will the Seahawks finally be able to get their running game going against the Giants?
Here are five (well, technically six) players to watch for the Seahawks against the Giants Sunday in New York (well, New Jersey actually, but they call themselves the New York Giants, so we’ll run with that).
Mark Glowinski, left guard
Glowinski looked like a future mainstay of the offensive line when he earned a starting spot at left guard before the 2016 season. Then he held off Oday Aboushi to win the right guard spot heading into this season after the team decided to have Luke Joeckel play left guard. But then after two middling offensive performances to start the season he was replaced by Aboushi and was inactive the last three games. Now with Joeckel out Glowinski is likely to get the start at LG against the Giants, though with rookie Ethan Pocic expected to rotate in and also play. OL coach Tom Cable indicated he’d be happy if one or the other took the job and ran with it from there. And that makes this a little more urgent of a situation for Glowinski, who is now in his third year and at this point is considered pretty much a guard only, to take this opportunity to show he should still be part of the team’s long-range plans.
Kam Chancellor, safety
One of the Giants’ top offensive weapons has become rookie first-round pick Evan Engram, who has 24 receptions for 282 yards to lead all first-year players at his position. Coverage of any receiver/tight end is always something of a team-wide thing. But Chancellor tends to get the duty more often of covering tight ends, especially in the base defense, and he’ll undoubtedly need to make some plays in man coverage against Engram.
Sheldon Richardson and Jarran Reed, defensive tackles
With injuries shelving star receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall the Giants have called on their running game more than ever the last two weeks and have done so fairly successfully averaging 5.26 yards per carry against the Chargers and Broncos. Seattle has had its issues defending the run this season allowing 4.9 per carry, 30th in the NFL, and will need some good play from Reed and Richardson to plug up the middle on early downs to create third-and-longs and force the undermanned Giants’ receiving corps to make plays.
Marcus Smith, defensive end
With Cliff Avril out at least eight more games the Seahawks will continue to need significant pass rush production out of Smith. Frank Clark takes over Avril’s starting role and also has a much-increased role. Smith now sort of steps into what had been Clark’s role of entering primarily in the nickel. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to doubt how Clark will handle the added responsibility. But Smith is more of a question simply because he doesn’t have as much of a track record. He played well against the Colts in taking over when Avril was hurt in the first quarter. But he didn’t have any sacks or QB hits two weeks ago against the Rams in playing what according to Pro Football Reference was a career-high 37 snaps. He’ll likely continue to get that much playing time as long as Avril is out, as long as he also shows worthy of it, production the Seahawks need.
Thomas Rawls, running back
The Seahawks simply have to start getting more out of the running back duo of Eddie Lacy and Rawls. The guess is Lacy will get the start again against the Giants but Rawls will obviously play and the bigger issue is getting at least one of them going well enough to establish a consistent running attack without relying solely on Russell Wilson. While it maybe made some sense that Lacy would need some time to adjust to a new offense (though no one hoped this much) that Rawls has struggled to find his footing is more confounding — maybe it’s just shaking off all the injuries and rust. Rawls should be fully healthy and ready to go this week after playing against the Rams and then having a bye. He had just 20 yards on eight carries against the Rams. But he had 14 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter against the Rams — maybe not much but it was the best he’s looked all season and the team hopes it’s something he can build on heading into Sunday’s game.