By Brady Henderson
ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski was watching coaches’ tape of the Seahawks on Thursday when he took a few minutes to speak with “Brock and Salk”.
More than 16 minutes, actually. You’d assume he’s been living in the film room based on everything he had to say about Seattle’s divisional-round matchup with the Falcons.
Here are a few of Jaworski’s thoughts:
The ‘moveable chess piece’. The matchup between Seattle’s big, physical cornerbacks and Atlanta’s big, physical wide receivers is a headliner. Roddy White is one of those receivers, but don’t expect to always see him lined up across from Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner.
“They’re just not going to line up at X on the left side and Z on the right side and stay there all day. Roddy White is kind the moveable chess piece. He’s the where’s Waldo,” Jaworski said. “When the defense comes out of the huddle you better find Roddy White. He might be in the backfield, he might be in the slot, he might be in the cluster, he might be in the bunch.”
Ron Jaworski thinks the aggressiveness of Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will give the Falcons opportunities for long completions. (AP)
Jaworski shared this stat: White has 18 receptions of 20 yards or more, and 13 of them have come on plays in which he lined up in one of those unconventional positions.
Browner and Sherman are excellent in coverage, even though Browner did not have his best game last week against Washington. Moving around White or Julio Jones, the other half of Atlanta’s stellar receiving duo, could create more favorable matchups for the Falcons.
“You must identify where No. 84 [White] is, then adjust your coverage to him,” Jaworski said.
Beware of double moves. Browner and Sherman are known for their aggressiveness, both when it comes to getting physical with opposing wide receivers and playing balls thrown their way. Jaworski thinks the Falcons can take advantage of that aggressiveness with double moves.
“I think you will see at least three stutter-gos,” he said. “You’ll see the stutter at 10-12 yards because when you watch these corners, that’s when they like to stop to move their feet, to anticipate the route. But the teams that have a wide receiver with the ability to run good stutter-gos – and Julio Jones and Roddy White are good – you’ve got to test the corners deep down the field.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had the league’s fourth-best completion rate (56 percent) this season on passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Mike Nolan factor. The Falcons intercepted MVP candidate Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter of a Week 2 over the Broncos. That was one example Jaworksi cited while lauding defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s ability to devise effective new game plans that catch opponents off guard.
“It was beautifully designed concepts that tricked Peyton Manning. In fact, I’ve spoken to Manning and [former Colts general manager] Bill Polian about Mike Nolan, and they say the same thing: it sometimes takes you a half to figure out what he’s doing on the defensive side of the ball,” Jaworski said.
“They’re not always the most noticeable things like blitz or a single-high or cover two, it’s little nuances of alignment that make a big difference. He really has a good feel for what the other team’s offense wants to do, and he adapts to that.”
Running wild. Atlanta’s rushing defense ranked 21st during the regular season. Seattle had the league’s third-best rushing attack and ran for 224 yards last week against Washington, setting a franchise record for a playoff game.
If that’s not enough reason to believe the Seahawks should be able to move the ball effectively Sunday, Jaworski noted how poorly the Falcons fared in their two meetings with Cam Newton and Carolina’s spread-option offense. The Panthers finished 7-9 and split their two games with the Falcons.
“Cam Newton ran for 202 yards in two games on 18 carries. He threw for 502 yards. He had 704 yards of offense,” Jaworski said. “… If you’re a Seahawks fan and you looked at those two games, you’ve got to be feeling pretty good that your offense is going to move the football.”
Atlanta has allowed 7.3 yards per carry on option runs this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.