John Clayton’s keys: The last time the Seahawks face Colin Kaepernick in a 49ers uniform?
While the Seahawks and Richard Sherman continue to unravel some of the mysteries of this strange 2016 season, the team closes out the regular season in San Francisco against the 49ers on Sunday.
Talk about mysteries. The 49ers remain one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL. They are 2-13 and are filled with uncertainly. Front office changes are expected, and ownership has to determine if it wants to give head coach Chip Kelly a second year and which direction to go in the future.
Even though this isn’t considered an even matchup, here are some things to look for Sunday.
• This may be the last time Colin Kaepernick plays in a 49ers uniform. The Seahawks didn’t get to play against Kaepernick, one of the few remaining players from the old Seahawks-49ers rivalry when it was considered one of the best in football, in their first meeting against San Francisco this season. Blaine Gabbert was the quarterback in that one. Kaepernick has the ability to get out of his $19 million a year contract after the season, and most anticipate both sides will part. There are no guarantees that would prevent him from leaving, but he probably does need another challenge and the 49ers need to reconfigure the quarterback position. Since taking over as the starter this season, Kaepernick is 1-9. His 57.7 completion percentage is the lowest of his career. His 6.5 yards per attempt is also a career low. The Seahawks secondary knows how to play Kaepernick, so it will be interesting to see if the secondary can force a few interceptions, which the Seahawks often do against him.
• No Carlos Hyde in the 49ers backfield. The Seahawks got a break in the sense that Hyde isn’t going to play after going on Injured Reserve because of an MCL injury. Hyde finished the year just 12 rushing yards short of 1,000 at 988, 103 of which came on 21 carries in San Francisco’s 37-18 loss in Seattle in Week 3. Most of his yards came in the second half, and it led to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive coordinator Kris Richard being upset about the way the defense finished in that game.
• The Seahawks should establish the running game. The 49ers are giving up 171.1 yards a game on the ground, so it would be nice if Thomas Rawls gets a chance to get out there and get some carries. It would be important for Alex Collins to have his best day, too, somewhere around 70 or 80 yards on 15 or 16 carries. Plus, you figure Russell Wilson will get somewhere between 20 and 40 yards.
• The Seahawks’ secondary won’t face a lot of challenges from the wide receiver position. Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton and tight end Vance McDonald are on the IR, so the 49ers’ lone threat will be Jeremy Kerley, a slot receiver acquired in the preseason in a trade. He has 58 catches for 606 yards. No other active 49ers wide receiver has more than 17 catches.
Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.