Seattle will need to break in Mike Davis in the backfield against an imposing defense — that should look familiar.
Decipher a defense awash in similarities
Seattle’s offense, averaging 26.3 points per game the last three weeks, now takes on a Jacksonville defense that leads the league in fewest points allowed at 14.8, as well as fewest yards at 282.5. But the Seahawks won’t find much mysterious in what the Jaguars do. Their coordinator is Todd Wash, who coached Seattle’s defensive line in 2011-12 before leaving to join the staff of Gus Bradley, a former Seahawks defensive coordinator who was the Jags’ head coach from 2013 until late last season. New head coach Doug Marrone kept Wash and a defense that looks a lot like that of Seattle’s pretty intact.
“It’s really the same way we did it here and it’s what you love to do, if you have it,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “And they have great speed that they can bring in off the bench on their third down situations, on their edge rushers, and the whole thing is really fit together beautifully.”
But if the Seahawks aren’t expecting many surprises, what they’ll instead need to do is win some physical battles. That will be a particular key in defusing a Jacksonville pass rush that has an NFL-high 45 sacks this season led by veteran end Calais Campbell, who leads the NFL with 12.5 and during his years in Arizona had 11.5 against Seattle — his most against any team — with 5.5 on Russell Wilson.
Devise a Davis-led running game
For maybe the first time since the fourth game of the season the Seahawks enter a game with something of a settled situation at tailback.
Mike Davis is due to start for the second straight Sunday after rushing for 64 yards last week against the Eagles. That was just Davis’ second start of the season and first after missing the previous game with a groin injury. Only two other times this season has a Seattle tailback started consecutive games — Chris Carson did it before being injured in week four and Eddie Lacy also got the call in two straight games in October. Davis’ 64 yards last week were the most since Carson had 93 in week two against the 49ers. Which means that, yep, Seattle does not have a 100-yard rushing game this season.
While Jacksonville’s defense leads the league overall its run defense has at times been spotty and the Jags are 20th this week overall allowing 115.4 per game. But Jacksonville’s run defense has improved markedly since trading for tackle Marcell Dareus — the Jags have held five of their past eight opponents under 100 yards rushing. But Carroll hopes that maybe with Davis Seattle finally has the running spark it needs.
“I’m just anxious to see Mike just get back out again,’’ Carroll said. “We’re going to play some football, and we’re not looking for him to do anything special, but just to do what he does and see how he adds to that on offense.”
Doug and Jalen down by the sideline
The most intriguing individual matchup of the game might be that of Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin against Jacksonville second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury but expected to play.
Given the nature of their two positions they may not face each other every play. But Ramsey, a first-round pick in 2016 out of Florida State, often follows an opposing team’s top receiver. He also has quickly become one of the best at his position on the field while gaining a Richard Sherman-esque reputation for talking on and off of it.
Ramsey said this week that the game against the Seahawks isn’t any bigger than any other — many in Jacksonville have been hyping it up as one of the more important in recent team history with the Jags into December tied for the AFC South lead. And asked about Baldwin, Ramsey said he’s “a good player, but he ain’t Larry Fitzgerald,” according to Jacksonville.com — a reference to the standout Arizona receiver who Ramsey helped hold to three catches for 12 yards two weeks ago. Baldwin said he doesn’t really pay attention to what opponents say and he praised Ramsey. But Baldwin didn’t get where he is by not responding to challenges and it’s hard to imagine he won’t want to try to show Ramsey that while he may not be Larry Fitzgerald he is Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin broke out last week with five catches for 84 yards after being held to four for 65 combined in the previous two games, and if Seattle struggles at all to run the Seahawks will need Baldwin to come up with a big play or two to get the win.