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Heaps: Seahawks’ D-line, tight ends are critical to beating Patriots

Greg Olsen caught a TD in Week 1. (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Seahawks will play at home in Seattle for the first time in 2020, and after beating the Atlanta Falcons, who passed the ball 54 times last Sunday, the New England Patriots come to town with a new quarterback and an apparent commitment to running the ball.

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Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady left the Patriots in free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former MVP Cam Newton is now under center for New England. While the Falcons passed for over 400 yards against the Seahawks – largely because they were down by a decent amount for most of the game – the Patriots rushed for over 200 yards in a Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins, with Newton leading the way with 75 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

If the Seahawks are going to get the win on Sunday Night Football, which position groups need to come up big? Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy shared his thoughts on Friday.

“The players that have to step up big here for the Seahawks are going to be – yeah, I’ll say it – the entire defensive line,” Heaps said. “Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and backups (like) Bryan Mone, these guys have to step up and they have to come up and play big because this is going to be a game where they need to play big.”

A big question with the defensive line this offseason was if they could get better at rushing the passer after recording just 28 sacks in 2019. That issue in a way covered up the fact that the Seahawks were poor against the run last season as well.

“All the questions about the group, can they be better than they were last year when they nearly gave up almost 5 yards per carry last year? They have to be better,” Heaps said. “And I think (safety) Jamal Adams and (the secondary) helps, but those guys on the defensive line have to hold their gaps and stay disciplined.”

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks are coming off a great offensive showing, putting up 38 points while quarterback Russell Wilson had as many touchdowns (four) as incompletions and passed for 322 yards.

The offense faces a much tougher task with the Patriots’ defense, which is powered by an impressive secondary. Leading that back group is 2019 Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is expected to defend either DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett. Those two each had over 90 yards in Atlanta, and Metcalf caught a touchdown pass. If Gilmore shadows one of those two, Heaps expects the defense to double-team the other receiver. That opens the door for other pass catchers, and Heaps said they will need to come up big.

“The players that need to step up big on the offensive side of the ball are going to be that tight end group,”  he said. “I’m talking to Greg Olsen, I’m talking to Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister. You’re going to have one-on-one opportunities versus linebackers, versus safeties. I think that could potentially be the X-factor in the game is how well the tight end group for the Seattle Seahawks plays this Sunday.”

Dissly has flashed in 11 career games and Olsen, Heaps said, is an underrated run blocker in part because he’s so good at catching the ball. Hollister, meanwhile, was a surprise star for Seattle last season and Heaps said he liked how he was utilized in Week 1.

“I love the fact that they used Jacob Hollister in a bunch of different ways as well,” Heaps said. “He almost kind of lined up as a fullback from a couple snaps that I saw. So don’t be surprised if you see (for) the Seahawks, as I study this Patriots defense more and more, that the tight ends could be a real factor against a group that has really good corners.”

Listen to the second hour of Friday’s Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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