Clayton: Dolphins offer Seahawks’ defense a better matchup than first 3 weeks

Oct 2, 2020, 12:58 PM
Seahawks defense...
The Seahawks' defense has given up almost 500 yards per game through three weeks. (Getty)

Despite the Seahawks’ 3-0 start, Seahawks fans are freaking out about the defense.

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Offenses are gaining 497.3 yards a game, including 430.7 through the air. Opponents are scoring 28.7 points a game. The numbers are creating fear among Seahawks fans. Despite that, the team is 3-0 and has had double-digit leads in those three victories. Pete Carroll expressed concern about giving up too many chunk plays through the air, but he also says the yards allowed are coming in the second half when teams are trying to claw their way back in the game.

What’s interesting about the Seahawks’ game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 is that Seattle isn’t facing a great quarterback like they faced in the first three weeks. Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have been league MVPs. Dak Prescott is putting up record numbers through the air. On Sunday, the Seahawks face Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 1-2 Miami Dolphins offense that ranks 26th in yards.

If Fitzpatrick puts up big numbers against the Seahawks, there will be a true panic after the game by fans and critics. You saw that happened in Arizona when the Cardinals blew a lead and lost to a bad Detroit Lions team, 26-23. Of course, the Lions did have a top quarterback in Matthew Stafford.

I’ve always considered Fitzpatrick to be a great backup quarterback. He’s still starting for now and has been helped by the Dolphins hiring of Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator. But “Fitzmagic’’ can work in two different ways. He can get touchdowns, or he could throw interceptions.

Ted Marchibroda, a longtime NFL coach, used to say a good backup quarterback can come off the bench and win you three games but if you play him six games he can lose you three games. With this being Game Four for this season, we’ll see if there is any drop off in Fitzpatrick. He’s competing 71.1% of his passes and has four touchdown passes in three games. He’s also thrown three interceptions.

Clearly, the Seahawks can’t take him too lightly. He’s Harvard smart and he has some running ability even though he’s 37 years old. But you are also looking at a quarterback who has had only one winning season. Unfortunately for him, he’s been on a lot of bad teams.

Here are some of things working against him this year: In a season in which there was no offseason program and no preseason games, the Dolphins changed four starters on their offense. Their one returning starter – right tackle Jessie Davis – is considered one of the weakest links on their offensive line. This should give the Seahawks the opportunity to mount a pass rush. Even though the sack numbers remain low, the defensive line is getting more pressures each week. L.J. Collier and Benson Mayowa have done well. Alton Robinson looked good in his first NFL game.

The secondary does have problems with injuries. Safety Jamal Adams won’t play because of a groin injury. Marquise Blair is out for the season. Quinton Dunbar has a sore knee. Lano Hill has a sore back, so the Seahawks may have to start Ryan Neal at safety.

The Seahawks need a good game from cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who has been burned for 20 completions on 27 targets for 305 yards and two touchdowns this season. That leads the league.

Tre Flowers filled in for Dunbar last week, but he has been beaten for six completions on nine targets this season for 107 yards and one touchdown.

One thing skewing the numbers is this is a record-setting year for offenses. With a big reduction in the number of holding penalties called, quarterbacks are having more time to throw the ball. Some say the last time offenses had numbers like this was in 1961 in the American Football League.

Against the Dolphins, the Seahawks need to get better on defense.

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Clayton: Dolphins offer Seahawks’ defense a better matchup than first 3 weeks