Defensive end Frank Clark, stepping into the starting lineup for Cliff Avril, is a Seahawk to watch against the Rams Sunday.
Here are five (well, six, actually) Seahawks particularly intriguing to watch against the Rams on Sunday.
DEFENSIVE END FRANK CLARK: Sunday will mark the first game the Seahawks will play without Cliff Avril since 2013 — he has started every game since the beginning of the 2014 season. Clark will start in his place. It’s not the first time Clark has had to start getting the call for five games at mid-season last year when Michael Bennett was out, playing 77 percent of the snaps or more in all five, making one sack in three of the games.
So this isn’t a new thing for Clark. But Clark has been battling a slew of nagging injuries — a broken bone on one hand, a torn ligament on the other, a hamstring issue as well as cramping against Titans, something to watch with the temperatures expected in the high 80s Sunday (Clark said later he would review how he prepared hydrating for the Tennessee game). Clark will need to play well and play a lot as there is little depth behind him with Marcus Smith and Bennett the only other official defensive ends after an injury this week knocked out newly-reacquired Quinton Jefferson. Clark has a good history against the Rams, though — 3.5 of his 10 sacks last season came in the two games against Los Angeles.
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OFFENSIVE TACKLES GERMAIN IFEDI AND REES ODHIAMBO: The punching bag that has been the Seahawks’ offensive line has to be given credit for playing better the last two weeks — no team in the NFL has gained more yards than the 910 of Seattle the last two games and the line has to have done something right, right?
But the Rams have a better defensive front than the Titans or Colts and have always given the Seahawks fits. New Rams’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also continues to tinker with his front as he gets to know them — last week, the Rams moved tackle Michael Brockers to end which allowed rookie Tanzel Smart to start inside. Brockers responded with a key hit on Dak Prescott on a play that resulted in an interception as well as a sack.
It hardly even needs to be said that Brockers and Robert Quinn — who has 10 career sacks of Russell Wilson — will provide a stiff test of Seattle’s tackles. Odhiambo is particularly worth watching early to see how he responds after the scary chest injury of last week. Matt Tobin is listed as his backup but the Seahawks also like the progress of Isaiah Battle — it’ll be interesting to see if Battle is active for the first time as a Seahawk. Battle has never played in an NFL game but spent his first two years on the Rams’ practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVER TYLER LOCKETT: If Lockett had to shake off any rust early in the year as he came back from the devastating broken leg of last Dec. 24, his 41-yard from Russell Wilson last week appears to show he’s back to his usual form. Now he faces a team against which he has had some of his biggest games — two of what are statistically the top three in his career, in fact. Lockett had four receptions for 99 yards in Los Angeles last season and then seven for a career-high 130 yards along with a career-long 57-yard touchdown in Seattle last December the week before he was injured.
RUNNING BACK J.D. MCKISSIC: McKissic was one of the unexpected heroes of the win over the Colts when he had four carries for 38 yards, including a 30-yarder that helped break the game open, as well as a 27-yard TD catch that capped the second-half onslaught. If he might have caught the Colts by surprise, though, that won’t be the case with the Rams. And Seattle may again need him to play a significant role with C.J. Prosise again doubtful. McKissic’s game last week had some wondering if he’ll get a chance at helping replace Chris Carson as an early-down back.
The Seahawks might work him in here and there in early downs but that role still appears likely to go to the duo of Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy with McKissic ticketed more for the third-down/two-minute back role. But that’s a big one in Seattle’s offense and with Prosise again unable to stay healthy, McKissic has a chance to show maybe it should be his full-time.
CORNERBACK JUSTIN COLEMAN: Coleman was one of the other breakout stars of last week with an early pick six after stepping into a regular role in the nickel package with Jeremy Lane sidelined. Lane is likely again out meaning Coleman will again play the nickel. One of the keys to the Rams’ early success has been the play of slot receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, the latter a rookie from Eastern Washington who has two touchdown catches, one last week at Dallas. Woods has the best came of his six-year career last year against the Seahawks when he was with Buffalo catching 10 passes for 162 yards.