Rost’s Seahawks preview: Breaking down Seattle’s matchup with the Colts
The 2021 regular season is finally here, and the Seahawks get an early start against a non-conference opponent with a 10 a.m. kickoff against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Seahawks are favored to get the win over Frank Reich’s squad, but the Colts present a few unique challenges (and opportunities) for Seattle.
Here’s a quick primer:
Colts’ 2020 record: 11-5 (lost in Wild Card round to Buffalo)
New additions: Quarterback Carson Wentz, first-round edge rusher Kwity Paye, offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
What worked: A 1,000-yard season from rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, and First-Team All-Pro seasons from guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darious Leonard, and special teamer George Odom.
Strengths: Offensive line, running back, and run defense.
Headed up by star left guard Quenton Nelson, the Colts’ offensive line ranks as one of the best units in the league heading into 2021. Former Seahawk Mark Glowinski is the starting right guard while former Chiefs veteran Eric Fisher was an offseason addition to hold down the left tackle spot. The Colts activated Fisher from the COVID list earlier this week, but he’s no guarantee to start Sunday. If he’s out, they’ll roll with backup Julie’n Davenport, which could be an advantage for Carlos Dunlap or Benson Mayowa, both of whom typically play at right defensive end.
It could be a challenge for Seattle to get things going on the ground.
Kevin Bowen of 105.7 The Fan in Indianapolis joined The Huddle on 710 ESPN Seattle on Thursday to offer insight, where he said the Colts’ run defense is an overlooked strength.
“You look at both of their defensive tackles, Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner – Stewart is not really a household name nationally, but they have a really, really stout run defense.”
Weaknesses: Pass defense, quarterback
The Colts, overall, were not a poor pass defense in 2020. They gave up about 245 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, which was 20th overall (in between Cincinnati and Tampa Bay). But it’s certainly not a strength.
“The pass defense worries me a little bit,” Bowen said. “Just an unproven pass rush, and then the cornerback position, it’s not as sound as you would like it. I think you want to be a little deeper there in today’s NFL. And really, last year against the elite quarterbacks they struggled; they kind of feasted on some of the bottom feeders. They’re going to see a great quarterback on Sunday, and that will continue (over the year).”
On offense, the Colts traded for ex-Eagles passer Carson Wentz. Wentz, who was the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 and was an MVP favorite in 2017. However, his career has been hampered by a series of injuries, and last year was his worst in the pros: 2,620 yards and just 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. There’s certainly a chance he finds a resurgence with a new offense, but he’s missed time in camp after undergoing foot surgery and has plenty to prove in 2021 before he can be considered a reliable, consistent starter.
Matchup to watch: Kwity Paye vs. Duane Brown
The Colts used their first-round pick this year on former Michigan standout Kwity Paye, who will start at right defensive end Sunday, opposite left tackle Duane Brown. Paye was one of the highlights of training camp, but there’s a catch to the hype:
“Leaving training camp, (Paye was) probably been the biggest sign of encouragement all season long,” Bowen said. “No matter who was thrown at him, he had a really productive camp. Having said that, we make this reference here in the state of Indiana: know what time you do your J.V. and varsity high school basketball games. We do J.V. at 6:00 and varsity at 7:30. He’s seen a lot of 6:00 guys at offensive tackle. The guy he’s seeing on Sunday, I don’t need to remind you guys, that’s a 7:30 guy. Paye is going to start, he’s going to play a lot, and he’s had a really good camp, but he’s seen nobody like Duane Brown.”
What the Seahawks must avoid: Any offensive coordinator looking at Seattle’s defense is going to test their corners after last year’s pass yards allowed – and it’s up to Reed and Flowers to prove them wrong here. The linebackers will need to offer support against a strong run game, with strong performances from younger players like Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor (though it’s worth noting Jonathan Taylor wasn’t used heavily in the pass game; he saw just 41 total targets, which ranks well outside the top 25 of all running backs). The Seahawks’ offense may not look polished rolling out its new playbook for the first time, so there’s an easy key here: avoid turnovers.
Prediction: Taking the Seahawks in this one thanks to a big day from Metcalf. Chris Carson has found success against great run defenses before, but Russell Wilson and new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron seem eager to open things up, and they’ll have a favorable matchup against the Colts’ cornerbacks. If the run defense can keep Jonathan Taylor at bay, it doesn’t seem likely Wentz can throw his way out of a one-dimensional offense, even against the Seahawks’ unproven corners.