Clayton: Seahawks’ defense facing a new test over tough 5-game stretch
The first third of the Seahawks season tested the pass rush and the secondary.
Even though the Seahawks won five games, the pass defense showed too many holes. The Seahawks gave up 370.4 yards a game, though a lot of those yards were attributed to quarterbacks trying to turn around double-digit deficits.
The next five games, a stretch that is being considered the defining part of Seattle’s schedule, will be more of a test of the run defense. Twice in the next five weeks, the Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals, who average 161 rushing yards a game and put up 261 yards Monday night on the Dallas Cowboys.
The Seahawks will face the challenge of trying to stop two of the most creative running offenses in the NFL over the next five games. Rams coach Sean McVay doesn’t have Todd Gurley anymore, but he is so innovative with his pre-snap motions and what he can get out of a three-man running back committee. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan is also a master at calling running plays.
The Rams average 135.2 rushing yards per game. The 49ers average 127.8 per game.
Except for a Week 5 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Seahawks have been good against the run. They are giving up only 100.8 rushing yards a game and 3.9 yards a carry. They have faced good backs such as Gurley with the Falcons, the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott and the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook.
The next group of backs they face aren’t big names, but they will be a challenge.
Kenyan Drake of the Cardinals, who Seattle plays on Sunday, has 478 rushing yards and is averaging 4.6 yards a carry.
The 49ers won’t have Raheem Mostert next week against the Seahawks after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and is expected to go on injured reserve, but Jerick McKinnon has 211 yards and averages 5.1 yards a carry for San Francisco.
The Rams started out with Cam Akers at halfback but have shifted over to Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Henderson has 348 yards and a 4.8 yard average. Brown has 217 yards and a 3.9 yard average.
One thing the Seahawks won’t have to worry about is the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo or Rams’ Jared Goff running the football. They are pocket passers, and Garoppolo is playing despite a high-ankle sprain.
What will be interesting is how Damon “Snacks” Harrison can fit in during this five-game stretch. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t say for sure during his Monday press conference that Harrison will be active this week. After signing a couple of weeks ago, he’s still adapting to his new team. This will be his first week on the field in practice.
With the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, Harrison established himself as one the league’s best run defenders. The Seahawks were lucky to get him to sign to the practice squad. They are giving him time to get in football shape after not having a training camp and remaining unsigned until the fifth week of the season.
It will help if the Seahawks can get back the speed of linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who hasn’t played since Week 3 due to a knee injury, for the Cardinals game on Sunday. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will be well rested and should do well in trying to stop the run. The Seahawks could really use safety Jamal Adams (groin) too, but they won’t rush him back if he needs another week.
This stretch of five games is the most important of the season. The Seahawks are 5-0 against non-division teams, and this is the first 5-0 start in franchise history. Four of the next five games are against NFC West teams. As long as the Seahawks win more games than they lose in this stretch, they will be in great shape to be a No. 1 seed, but it will take the adjustment from defending the pass to stopping the run.
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