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The 3 Questions: Can Seahawks’ defense turn things around against Dallas?

The Seahawks have surrendered over 400 yards a game through Week 2. (Getty)

Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks offense are firing on all cylinders heading into a Week 3 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys (1-1). While it’s early in the season, the NFC matchup could have big playoff implications down the road; only the one seed in each conference will get a bye week this winter (and any win Seattle can get outside of a tough NFC West helps).

Clayton: With Seahawks and Cowboys injured on D, expect a shootout

Here are three questions for the game:

Will it be a shootout between the Seahawks and Cowboys?

The Cowboys led the league in total offense last year and remain one of the league’s strongest through two weeks, trailing only the Packers in total yards (950). Halfback Ezekiel Elliott ranks third in rushing yards while quarterback Dak Prescott ranks third in passing yards behind Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Prescott was also named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after he threw for 450 yards and rushed for three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ miraculous comeback against the Falcons in Week 2 (Dallas converted on five of their six trips into the red zone).

Also sitting near the top on offense? The Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is second to Green Bay in points per game (36.5) and Russell Wilson leads all passers in touchdowns (9) and passer rating (140.0). Chris Carson also leads all running backs in receiving touchdowns (3).

It’s not all rosy, though. Both teams have struggled on defense, despite a bevy of talent – Seattle with All-Pros Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams, and Dallas with DeMarcus Lawrence and the newly-signed Everson Griffen. Through two weeks, Seattle has allowed more yards to opposing offenses (970) than any other team in the league. Dallas ranks 24th in total defense and has allowed the eighth-most points.

There are also injuries to consider. Dallas will be without starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Their second starting corner, Trevon Diggs, appeared on this week’s injury report alongside Lawrence and Griffen. Seattle will be without starting nickel Marquise Blair and starting linebacker Bruce Irvin, both of whom suffered season-ending ACL injuries.

Can the defense turn things around this week?

The Seahawks can’t fix their problems on defense overnight, but the good news is at least a few of them are fixable.

Against the Cowboys, Seattle will need its defensive stars to be at their best. Getting safety Quandre Diggs back will be one improvement; Diggs was ejected in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Patriots. Allowing 400-plus yards is never great, but Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott will make their plays. Instead, fundamentals like limiting explosive plays and getting off the field on third down will be key. New England converted seven of its 12 third-down situations last week (58%), and Atlanta converted on seven of 14 the week before (50%).

Linebackers Wagner and K.J. Wright, as well as safety Adams, have performed well through two weeks. The return of Diggs and a strong outing from the rest of the secondary could be enough to make up for pass rush issues up front. If there’s one advantage for the defensive line, it’ll be that Dallas will be playing rookie Terence Steele at right tackle (a former Texas Tech teammate of rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks). They could also be without starting left tackle Tyron Smith. I predicted increased sack totals this week because of that, but if I’m wrong, please be warned that I will delete this sentence Sunday evening.

Now comes the long-term outlook: If the Seahawks don’t bring in veteran help, particularly up front, then they’ll need to lean on growth from their newest and youngest players – and that will take time. Dallas’ offense will test rookies like Brooks and defensive end Alton Robinson early. Their performances against the Cowboys may bring some excitement and promise – but as is the case with any young player, there will also be some mistakes.

What will we see in Jordyn Brooks’ first start?

Let’s get back to Brooks. The 2020 first-round pick has seen a total of 15 defensive snaps and has recorded one solo tackle. He’ll see a massive increase in playing time this Sunday.

Brooks drew a ton of praise in camp, but this will bring his biggest test yet.

“We’re really excited for Jordyn to get more playing time for all of the right reasons that he’s shown us,” head coach Pete Carroll said in his Friday press conference. “He’s ready to go. He won’t be perfect, but he’ll be at it. He’s a bright football player, and hopefully we can position him in some good spots to do some good things for him.”

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