How will the Seahawks use Jimmy Graham? Can the O-line perform better? Here are six things watch when the Seahawks take on the Packers on Sunday night in Green Bay, from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
Here is what to watch when the Seahawks play at Green Bay Sunday night from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m. and the game will be telecast on NBC.
Here are three things to watch from Jenks:
1. How will the defense respond? The message around the Seahawks locker room this week was clear: The defense’s performance last week wasn’t up to standard. As good as the Seahawks have been on that side of the ball the last few years, they have had their stumbles and struggles every season. But what has defined them has been their ability to get those issues sorted out and corrected. The Seahawks gave up too many big plays to the Rams. They had communication breakdowns that left receivers running open and they missed tackles. Will first-year defensive coordinator Kris Richard be able to get it figured out against a much better Green Bay offense?
2. How much will Jimmy Graham be involved? His numbers were fine last week: six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t like the Seahawks didn’t get him involved. But there were times, particularly in the red zone, when the Seahawks could have maybe given him a chance to go make a play and didn’t. Graham is such a unique talent that he has to be treated different than most receiving targets. He can make plays even when it seems like there isn’t a play to be had. It’s what makes him so good in the red zone, and the Seahawks have to give him those opportunities. It’s part of the trust and connection he and Russell Wilson still have to develop, and it’s worth watching this season.
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3. Will the linebackers play better? It was obvious that the Seahawks’ talented linebackers didn’t play very well against the Rams last week, especially within the context of what they’ve done over the last couple of years. Coach Pete Carroll said they struggled with their drops in coverage, leaving too many open spaces for the Rams to exploit. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers poses an added challenge in that he is more than capable of burning defense’s with his legs. The pressure of eliminating that threat doesn’t fall all on the linebackers, but it is a part of the responsibility. The Seahawks will need them to play better this week to keep the Packers in check.
And from Condotta:
1. How will Dion Bailey bounce back? The Kam Chancellor holdout hovers over everything at the moment, and how Bailey plays — and the defense, as well — will be watched closely. Many will certainly wonder if another defensive performance similar to last week will lead to any softening in the Seahawks’ stance. That may be a more short-term view of things than the Seahawks are taking, but we’ll see. Bailey last week sort of played like what he is — a player playing his first NFL game. He took the defeat, hard, though. As free safety Earl Thomas said Thursday: “One thing that really stood out to me is when he was crying after the game, it touched me. Because this game really means a lot to him, and that reminded me of me crying when I used to play Pop Warner, when I used to just lose. You just hate to lose, you know. I’ll line up with that guy nine times out of ten, I’ll line up with him. He wants it.” Expect Aaron Rodgers to target Bailey early and test him. How Bailey holds up will be critical to Seattle in the game, and might also have even larger ramifications.
2. Will the offensive line protect better and make holes for the running game? The line was a big part of the storyline last week, with Russell Wilson sacked six times and under pressure on many other occasions. The Packers don’t figure to have quite the pass rush, and also have been vulnerable to the run, giving up 185 yards to the Bears last Sunday, 141 to Matt Forte. A lot of those yards came on the edges, with the Bears able to get Forte loose off tackle. So that’ll put the focus on Seattle left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Garry Gilliam to clear out some room for Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson when he keeps it on zone read plays (which he may do more of this week after mostly running only when escaping pressure against the Rams). Gilliam is expected to play, though he is officially listed as questionable. If he can’t play then Alvin Bailey would get the call. Whoever is out there, the Seahawks will need to take advantage of Green Bay’s run defense liabilities to leave town with a win.
3. Can the Seahawks get a true special teams edge? There seems no question that the Seahawks will be better overall on special teams this year than they were in 2014 with Tyler Lockett reviving the return game and more depth overall improving the coverage and return units. Still, a couple of special teams breakdowns helped cost the Seahawks the game in St. Louis — allowing a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and the ill-fated kickoff to start overtime. The kickoff was obviously a fluke deal. And other than the long return, the coverage units otherwise played well. Still, that was a game where special teams could have helped win it after the Lockett return opened the scoring. The Packers have good returners themselves in Ty Montgomery on kickoffs and Micah Hyde on punts. Seattle needs to make them a non-factor.