STACY ROST

Rost: What kind of Jets team can Seahawks expect to play this week?

Dec 30, 2022, 12:18 PM

Seahawks Jets...

Mike White of the New York Jets fist bumps head coach Robert Saleh on December 11, 2022. (Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)

(Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)

Control what you can control. That’ll be the messaging for the Seahawks (7-8) this week. They’re alive in the playoff hunt but can only get in with a loss by the Commanders (7-7-1) and a loss from the Packers (7-8) over the next two weeks. For that to matter, Seattle will need to win its next two, and that effort begins Sunday with a matchup against the visiting New York Jets (7-8).

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The Jets are in a similar situation: a team that surprised critics by remaining competitive earlier than expected, but also one that’s now on the outside looking in after a losing streak. With back-to-back wins and a Dolphins win over the Patriots this Sunday, the Jets can break the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.

What kind of team can the Seahawks expect Sunday and just as importantly, what kind of team do they need to be to beat New York? That and more was covered in The Huddle this week. Here’s what we learned.

The Jets have an offensive problem

The Huddle includes an opponent preview and this week’s interview was brought to us by Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic.

We already know former second-overall pick Zach Wilson has underwhelmed, but he’s not the only issue for this Jets offense.

“The No. 1 common thread (in their losses) is just that the offense has not been good enough at scoring,” Rosenblatt said. “Even when Mike White was in there in the Vikings game, they went 1-of-6 in the red zone. And you’re not going to win games (doing that). The running game has really taken a downturn, the offensive line’s been banged up but they’re really struggling lately. When you have no running game and a quarterback, when Zach Wilson was in there, where the defense isn’t scared of him completing passes against them, it’s going to be hard to get yards and points.”

The Jets offense will have White, not Wilson, under center this weekend. While he’s provided a spark Wilson didn’t, White hasn’t exactly been the game changer New York fans might’ve hoped for. He’s 1-2 in three starts with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a stellar outing against Chicago (22/28 for 315 yards and three touchdowns) and then lackluster outings in losses to Minnesota and Buffalo. They’ve got some weapons; rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson is just shy of 1,000 yards this season. But even since losing fellow rookie sensation running back Breece Hall, the offense has struggled to roll over opposing defenses.

Geno Smith will have one of his toughest challenges… but he may have Tyler Lockett back

The Jets’ record doesn’t reflect just how well their defense has been playing. They’ve been limiting opposing offenses to 309 yards per game (third-best) and 18 points (fourth-best). Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has 12 sacks and rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has had a Pro Bowl season with 16 passes defensed.

Geno Smith is also a Pro Bowler this season, but the Seahawks offense has struggled after a hot start. No matter; the offense overall, particularly the pass game, has shown more consistency than any other phase of Seattle’s game and they’ll need to muster one of their best performances against this Jets defense. That means limiting turnovers (they’ve had at least one in every game this season), converting on third down (they converted just 2-of-14 last week against the Chiefs) and establishing the run (before Kenneth Walker III rushed for 107 last week, they’d gone more than a month without a 100-rushing yards as a team).

The good news? Smith may see the return of one of his top weapons. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett, just over a week removed from surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand, has a chance to play this weekend.

“The way Pete Carroll talked about him on Wednesday, it sure sounds like they think it’s a real shot for him to go,” said Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle, also a weekly guest on The Huddle. “He didn’t practice but he did do the walk-through and was catching footballs. My hunch is that what we’ll hear Friday is that it’ll be a game time decision and they’ll play it all the way out to Sunday. But how much of a difference does he make? We saw it in Kansas City. They got a pretty solid game out of DK Metcalf but not a lot of production out of the receivers otherwise. Third-down numbers were about as bad as they’ve been all year. Tyler Lockett’s not going to change 2-for-14 into 10-for-14 with those long third downs they had, but they’d make a few of those, I can guarantee you that. He takes some of the attention off of DK Metcalf we heard from coaches after the game that they rolled a lot of extra coverage toward DK Metcalf. If a team wants to do that when Tyler Lockett’s out there, great, you throw to Tyler Lockett.”

Familiar faces

Pete Carroll, a former Jets head coach, and Geno Smith, a former Jets quarterback, aren’t the only two seeing a reunion of sorts this weekend.

Robert Saleh, current Jets head coach, was hired as defensive quality control coach for Seattle in 2011 after the Houston Texans, for whom he’d previously been employed, fired most of their coaching staff.

“I had a three-month-old at the time, my wife and I, and she’s panicking because she’s wondering where out next meal is coming from,” Saleh told reporters this week. “And the good Lord came off the top ropes and sent me a blessing. Always appreciative to Pete and all the things that he did for me and my family.”

The nostalgia of returning to Seattle may have worn of for Saleh, who made the trip several times as defensive coordinator for San Francisco, but it was interesting for one long-time veteran to look back at Saleh’s path.

“It’s very exciting to see,” Bruce Irvin told The Huddle. “When I got here, Robert Saleh was making donut runs. He was running power points for the defense. It’s crazy to see how much he’s elevated and went from here to DC and now to head coach. It’s really unbelievable. But the guy worked his butt off and I think he’s getting everything he’s deserved.”

Don’t forget to listen to The Huddle – a two-hour Seahawks preview show with player and expert guests – every Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. with Dave Wyman, Michael Bumpus, and Stacy Rost.

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