Huard: Why the Vikings will give the Seahawks’ defense problems
As the Seahawks approach their Week 6 bye, they have a chance to do something no other Seahawks team has done, and that’s start a regular season with a 5-0 record. But to enter the bye with a franchise-best start, Seattle first must get through the 1-3 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football.
The Vikings got their first win in Week 4 over the now 0-4 Houston Texans, but all three of their losses were against tough, playoff-caliber teams – the undefeated Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans and the 3-1 Indianapolis Colts. Now, they continue their difficult start to the year with the Seahawks.
Seattle has one of the best offenses in the NFL, led by star quarterback Russell Wilson, but the defense, like in 2019, has its fair share of issues. The Vikings are in a similar spot, with a ton of talent on offense but a struggling defensive unit.
Former NFL quarterback and current NFL on FOX commentator Brock Huard joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant and broke down how the Vikings may be able to keep up with Seattle’s offense by exploiting its defense.
“They are a group that’s got some potency on offense, I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Huard said of the Vikings’ offense. “I don’t think they’re going to score 10 points or 20 points. They’ve got an opportunity (to score more with running back) Dalvin Cook, who’s one of the great home-run hitters in the game.”
The Seahawks have struggled mightily to stop opposing quarterbacks, surrendering over 400 yards in three of four games this season, but they’re one of the best teams at stopping the run. Cook, however, leads the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
In addition to Cook, the Vikings boat a receiver duo that, by the end of the year, may be among the league’s best.
“Their young (rookie first-round) receiver Justin Jefferson, they didn’t start (him) until two weeks ago and he’s now had back-to-back 100-yard games and is a difference-maker who kind of replaces (Pro Bowl receiver) Stefon Diggs (who was traded to Buffalo),” Huard said. “So (now) you’ve got (Pro Bowler Adam) Thielen and Jefferson to contend with. So they’ve got some offensive potency.”
Receivers have been able to put up good numbers against the Seahawks this year, and Jefferson may be next in line. Huard is a big fan of the LSU product, who is lining up all across the field for the Vikings on offense.
“Justin Jefferson is just a baller,” he said. “… He’s smooth, man. He does not look like a rookie at all.”
Additionally, Jefferson and Cook are both capable of huge plays with the ball in their hands.
“Between he and Cook, those are two guys you’d better tackle,” Huard said. “You’d better tackle in space or they’re going to turn 10 yards to 40 yards to points on the board.”
The Seahawks got beaten deep by Dallas Cowboys receivers on a regular basis in Week 3, allowing three touchdowns of over 40 yards. In Week 4, the big plays stopped, partly due to a lack of blitzing, and Seattle allowed just two passing plays of over 20 yards. Huard said the Vikings are set up to find some big plays with how their offense matches up with the Seahawks on defense.
“With (offensive coordinator) Gary Kubiak, they’re just a chunk offensive system, so they’re going to (run the ball and use play-action passes) and it’s not just little bubble screens and quick outs, it is deep overs, it’s corners, it’s deep intermediate in-cuts,” Huard said. “(Those are) things that give the Seahawks trouble, frankly, and have given them a lot of trouble at the second level in those zones. Both Atlanta and Dallas had a heyday and threw for about a gazillion yards against them in that area and that’s where Thielen and (Jefferson) operate.”
The other factor? The quarterback, who we haven’t even discussed.
Kirk Cousins has brought the Vikings in to Seattle for primetime games two years in a row and has come away empty handed. This year, he has an advantage given that there won’t be 70,000 screaming fans every time he takes the field.
“We’ve watched Kirk Cousins do very little because that environment at CenturyLink has just swallowed them up and I think he’s going to come in with a breath of fresh air and say, ‘Thank goodness. I don’t have to deal with the noise, don’t have to deal with the 12s, don’t have to deal with any of this and I can do to this secondary and this linebacker crew at the intermediate level what Dallas and Atlanta and others have done to them this season, too,'” Huard said.
How does Minnesota look defensively?
The Vikings are among the league’s worst in major defensive categories and Huard, who has seen them in person this year, said that’s very clearly the case when watching them.
“Defensively, they’re below average,” he said. “Defensively, (the Seahawks’ offense) should have every opportunity to pick on this secondary, pick on these young corners. Their defensive line is very average as well. (Defensive end) Yannick Ngakoue, they made the move for him, but he can’t be a one-man show.”
Like we’ve seen for most of Seattle’s games so far, expect a shootout, Huard said.
“I think this is a game that the Seahawks can score 30-plus and I think the national audience can be entertained as they usually are with primetime Seahawks games that always seemingly go down to the wire. This is one where if you score in the 30s, I think you should feel pretty comfortable you’ll find a way to win.”
Listen to Huard talk with Danny and Gallant at this link or in the player below.