Behind Enemy Lines: DALvsSEA
Lindsay Draper goes Behind Enemy Lines with Seattle Seahawks Digital Media Reporter, John Boyle.
1. Let’s not even delay the lead here. Earl Thomas, facing the Dallas Cowboys, at CenturyLink Field. Is there any awkwardness, excitement, or emotions at all regarding that entire situation up there?
Thomas addressed that after his first game back, saying “The guys welcomed me back with open arms. It was a smooth process. The coaching staff gave me my space to get through it.”
Obviously Thomas held out for a reason, and everyone understands why, but coaches and his teammates have all seemingly done a good job separating the business side of things from the day-to-day football stuff. And most importantly, Thomas has played very well in his two games back despite missing training camp and the preseason.
Following Thomas’ first game, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll raved about how Thomas and the rest of the team handled what had the potential to be an awkward situation, saying, “It’s terrific having him back. He’s a terrific football player. He handled the return and our players handled the return perfectly. He worked real hard, they embraced him coming back in, we knew we couldn’t play him the whole game, but we wanted to give him a great chance to contribute and he did immediately. He just handled it as well as you could handle it, and so did our players. So we’re off and running and we’re looking forward to next week.”
2. The Dallas fanbase is absolutely crazy about the addition of Kris Richard. How does his familiarity with the Seahawks affect their game plan offensively?
The Seahawks have faced former defensive assistants a few times, including Gus Bradley (Jaguars), Dan Quinn (Falcons) and Robert Saleh (49ers), and Carroll has generally downplayed the significance of how that will affect a game plan. The fact that the Seahawks have a new offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, probably takes away some of that familiarity for Richard, but he obviously knows Russell Wilson well and will have his players prepared for that challenge. Carroll did note on Wednesday that he has really noticed Richard’s influence on Dallas’ cornerback play.
“I can see it in the corner play,” Carroll said. “The corners are playing really well. They’re on the line of scrimmage and they’re doing a nice job. They made a nice move with (Byron) Jones and he’s made a nice quick transition. He’s doing a good job for them.”
3. Russell Wilson has been sacked 12 times in two weeks. Do you see this up and coming Dallas defense being a huge problem up front for Wilson Sunday?
Until the Seahawks clean things up in that regard, that will obviously be a concern. As Carroll put it, “We just have to get rid of the negative things that are happening that just set you back and screw you up for your down and distances. It’s really hard to overcome that and we’ve seen the result of it.”
But the six sacks in each game have been odd, because at times the pass protection has actually been good and the offense has put together some impressive touchdown drives, while at other times—be it because of the line getting beat or Wilson trying to extend plays for too long, or some other breakdown—the sacks have piled up.
The Seahawks will also hope that playing at home will help the offense clean some things up after opening with back-to-back games in hostile environments, but yes, cutting that sack number down is a big focus this week while preparing for another dangerous pass rush.
4. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright both missed last Sunday, but how much will their return against the Cowboys affect Sunday’s outcome?
Considering the Seahawks are facing one of the NFL’s best running backs, it would be huge to have their All-Pro middle linebacker back on the field—though it should be noted that Austin Calitro was a very pleasant surprise filling in last week, recording a game-high nine tackles. And obviously adding Wright to the mix as well would be even better, though the Seahawks did like what they saw from Mychal Kendricks in that role last week if he’s needed again on Sunday. Overall, Seattle’s defense played well last week after giving up far too many big plays in Week 1, and was stout against the run, holding Chicago’s running backs to a 2.4 yards-per-carry average.
5. So much has been made of the Seahawks that are no longer a part of the club. Who are some younger, under the radar players that Seattle is excited about?
On offense, I’d point to rookie tight end Will Dissly, who to the surprise of just about everyone, leads the team with 147 receiving yards and has a touchdown in each game. The Seahawks were excited to get Dissly in the fourth round of the draft, but more so because they viewed him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, not because of his pass-catching ability. Dissly, who began his college career at the University of Washington as a defensive end, has been a strong blocker as the Seahawks had hoped, but he has also proven to be a playmaker in the passing game, something that is even more needed with leading receiver Doug Baldwin sidelined by a knee injury for most of the opener and all of last week’s game.
One of the standouts on defense so far this season has been second-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Griffin isn’t exactly under the radar, having started almost all of last season, but after recording two interceptions last week, he’s starting to look like someone who could be a potential break-out star going forward. Another defensive standout this year has been safety Bradley McDougald, who also has two interceptions, a pass defensed that led to one of Griffin’s interceptions, and who is second on the team with 12 tackles. McDougald was Seattle’s third safety to start last season, but started the final nine games because of injuries to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and now that he’s a full-time starter this year, he has quickly emerged as one of Seattle’s key players on defense.
And, strangely enough, one of the young players who has created a ton of buzz has been rookie punter Michael Dickson, a Sydney, Australia native who has wowed coaches, teammates and fans alike not just with his big leg, but the uncanny accuracy he has used to regularly down punts inside the 10-yard line.