The 3 Questions: Can Seahawks’ DBs live up to the hype vs Julio Jones?
The Seattle Seahawks will kick off their season on the road with a game against the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. Expect some weird starts for most teams; in an offseason truncated by a pandemic, the NFL had little in-person work for players until a few weeks ago. Even then, teams will be playing without the benefit of preseason reps.
Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of questions fans have about this Seahawks team. While answers to some of those will take months (can DK Metcalf surpass his rookie receiving yards total?), at least three will start to reveal themselves this weekend.
Here are three questions heading into Week 1:
Can the Seahawks’ revamped secondary meet the hype?
Months ago, if you were to ask most local and national reporters about Seattle’s best move in free agency, quite a few would have told you it was the acquisition of speedy cornerback Quinton Dunbar. Seattle sent a fifth-round pick to Washington for a player who finished the 2019 season as Pro Football Focus’ second-rated cornerback.
That deal paled in comparison to the one Seattle made in July for safety Jamal Adams, though. The Seahawks sent a pair of first-rounders, a third-round pick, and safety Bradley McDougald to the New York Jets in exchange for an All-Pro difference-maker.
According to 710 ESPN Seattle hosts and former Seahawks players Jake Heaps and Dave Wyman, the difference in the secondary was noticeable with Adams’ presence during training camp.
“Jamal Adams is the real deal,” Heaps said during an episode of Tom, Jake and Stacy. “He looks the part, he plays the part… just that athleticism, that play-making ability, you can just see it very, very clearly.”
Said Wyman on Bob, Dave and Moore: “He’s a great football player. You can play him anywhere.”
Adams joins a group that includes Tre Flowers (still currently competing with Dunbar for the starting right corner spot), safety Quandre Diggs, and cornerback Shaquill Griffin. It’ll be their first time suiting up as a unit Sunday against an opponent – and it’ll be quite the test.
No, the 2019 Falcons weren’t the 2016 version of themselves in terms of offensive prowess, but offense – particularly passing offense – remains a strength of this team. Atlanta led the league in pass attempts per game (42.8) and ranked third in passing yards per game (294.6) behind only Tampa Bay and Dallas last year. The team has also added Todd Gurley in an attempt to improve their run game, but shutting down quarterback Matt Ryan and seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones will be the key to a win for Seattle.
What does an offseason of work produce for Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf?
Even in the middle of a pandemic, Russell Wilson and second-year wide receiver DK Metcalf found ways to get in extra work. Metcalf, who was 100 yards short of a 1,000-yard rookie season in 2019, seems poised for an even bigger season in 2020 if Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll’s sentiments are any indication.
“Really this training camp, this season, what I’m focusing on is the deeper routes,” Metcalf said, “making them all look the same… just trying to focus in on the little details as a receiver… I just can’t wait until September 13th and the rest of the season so we can show the world what we are.”
Atlanta has some real weapons on defense – there’s reliable veteran defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, newly-acquired pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr, and a returning Keanu Neal – but the Falcons still ranked near the bottom of the league in total defense, making the matchup favorable for Seattle’s offense.
Can the pass rush make a statement?
You don’t need to be reminded that the Seahawks’ pass rush struggled last year, but I’ll do it anyway. The team finished near the bottom of the league in sacks and pressures. To make matters worse, last year’s most consistent defensive lineman – Jadeveon Clowney – ultimately signed with Tennessee, ending a months’ long saga.
On the other hand, the Seahawks seem to believe in what they have on the defensive line, even if fans were calling for Clowney. The current group includes returning starters Jarran Reed (who signed an extension this offseason) and Poona Ford on the interior. Ex-Raider Benson Mayowa was brought in to head up the rotation at defensive end, ahead of rookie Alton Robinson. Bruce Irvin is back with the team after an 8.5-sack season for Carolina last year. Second-year pro L.J. Collier and 2019 Seahawks sacks leader Rasheem Green will play at the other edge spot.
It’s a group that has a lot to prove (fairly or not for new faces), but Carroll seems intent on starting that improvement right out of the gate.
“We definitely want to see more activity,” Carroll said of the pass rush. “We want to see a better job done with the play passes and the containment of it and that kind of stuff. We want to give our coverage a chance to make some plays that we missed out on last year. So hopefully we see some of that.”