Seahawks 3 Questions: Will ‘Snacks’ get to make an immediate impact?
The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to enter the bye week undefeated at 5-0 if they can get past the 1-3 Vikings on Sunday. But despite Minnesota’s record, that challenge will be tougher than it sounds.
The Vikings boast a pair of downfield-threat wide receivers who both had 100-yard games last week, plus a running back who currently leads the league in yards and touchdowns. Unsurprisingly then, most of those tests will be on the defensive side of the ball for Seattle.
Here are three questions for Sunday night’s matchup.
Will Snacks Harrison make his debut Sunday?
Newly-signed defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison is on the practice squad for right now while he adjusts to his new team, but the assumption is that he’ll be activated to the 53-man roster shortly – and potentially even in time for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
It’s a lot to ask of a player who wasn’t with a team this offseason to get caught up during a one week of practice. But the 31-year-old Harrison is also entering his ninth year in the league and the team doesn’t seem worried about a learning curve. Rather, Pete Carroll just wants to make sure Harrison is physically ready.
“Let me see him on a practice field first,” the Seahawks head coach told reporters Wednesday when asked whether there is a realistic chance fans could see Harrison Sunday night. “I don’t know. I’ve got to see what he looks like running around. Learning the defense, he’ll be fine there. He’s a really smart football player, that’s not going to be a problem. It’s just how fit he is and all that. He’s a big man, so we’ve got to see what he looks like.”
If Harrison is active, fans can probably still expect Poona Ford to start alongside Jarran Reed at defensive tackle. But adding Harrison to the rotation at the interior of the line helps to both strengthen Seattle’s defense against the run and give both Ford and Reed a much-needed break.
How will the Seahawks’ run defense hold up to Dalvin Cook?
Seattle’s run defense through four weeks has been phenomenal, but its greatest challenge will be stopping Dalvin Cook.
Cook is leading the league in rushing yards (424) and touchdowns (six) and has 21 broken tackles – also a league high. He had 181 yards and a touchdown in a Week 3 loss to the Titans and another 130 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ Week 4 win over Houston.
“He’s really explosive,” Carroll said of Cook. “He’s got great speed. He’s not the fastest running back in the league, but he plays like it. He’s such a quick accelerator that the whole field is available to him on any play… he’s very creative and very explosive and obviously looks like he’s in great shape, and really fit, and ready to handle it. And they can throw to the ball to him and he’s really dangerous in the open field.”
Cook will also put the Seahawks’ run defense to the test. So far, teams have been able to attack Seattle’s struggling passing defense, and unsurprisingly Seattle is facing the fourth-fewest rushing attempts per game (22.2). The defense is limiting teams to 75 rushing yards per game, behind only Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, but is allowing an average of 401 passing yards (for comparison’s sake, Pittsburgh is allowing 236 yards and Tampa Bay is allowing 247.8 yards per game). Cook is also effective as a receiver – so stuffing the run won’t take him out of the game – but it sure will add some bite to the bark when it comes to the Seahawks’ defensive strength.
Can a banged-up secondary keep Adam Theilen and Justin Jefferson at bay?
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been uneven through four weeks with six touchdowns to six interceptions, but he’s not lacking for explosive downfield weapons. Cousins saw a boost in his passer rating last week thanks in part to an outstanding game from rookie receiver Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson – who was a star on LSU’s national championship offense – caught four of five targets for 103 yards (a whopping 20.6 yards per target) against the Texans. That wasn’t even Jefferson’s best performance of the season; he got into the swing of things in Week 3 with 175 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee.
“It took him a game or so and (now) he’s just exploded on the scene,” Carroll said of Jefferson. “He’s a fantastic football player in every way. He’s explosive, he’s big enough, he’s really got a great catching range, he’s got a creative way to get to the ball, he’s really good after the catch, and the reason his numbers are up is he’s made some people miss him in the open field and yards after catch have been available to him. He’s just a terrific player.”
Leading the Minnesota receiver group is veteran Adam Thielen, who is also coming off a 100-plus yard game. Thielen has been dealing with a shoulder injury but was upgraded from a limited participant on Wednesday to full participant by Thursday’s practice, so right now it’s looking like he’ll play.
It’ll be a test for Seattle’s defense – in particular, for their battered secondary. Safety Jamal Adams (groin) has already been declared out. Safety Lano Hill missed a second day of practice with a back injury, meaning Ryan Neal, who started in Adams’ place last week, will presumably handle the job against Minnesota. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee) returned to limited practice Thursday.
The Seahawks have so far struggled to limit opposing passers and contain explosive plays. Granted, that improved last week – the Miami Dolphins didn’t complete a play longer than 26 yards (compare that to four plays of 40 or more yards surrendered to the Cowboys in Week 3). Can they take another step forward Sunday?