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Russell Wilson’s ankle injury forces Seahawks to adjust

Russell Wilson's ankle injury could lead to more shotgun formations against the Rams, writes John Clayton. (AP)

Russell Wilson appears to have survived the ankle injury he suffered in the Seahawks’ season opener against Miami.

Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh treated Wilson’s ankle like a speed bump after breaking through the offensive line on a pass play. Wilson worked through the pain to led a fourth-quarter comeback and a 12-10 victory.

What’s interesting to follow is the strategy the Seahawks are using in the first two weeks of the season going up against Suh and next week against Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Those matchups became tougher because of the ankle injury that has sidelined right guard Germain Ifedi.

Looking back at Sunday’s win, it was interesting to see how the Seahawks adjusted their normal game plan. In the Marshawn Lynch days, the Seahawks would try to pound the football. Against the Dolphins, they used a different type of offense. The Seahawks had 46 passing plays and 32 running plays. Even more stunning was how often they lined up in three-receiver sets. They had 56 plays out of three-receiver sets, with 18 rushes.

Wilson was 27 of 43 for 258 yards and somehow numbed the pain in his ankle to lead a game-winning touchdown drive.

Because Jimmy Graham was playing for the first time since his knee injury and Nick Vannett was out with a sprained ankle, the Seahawks weren’t going to use too many two-tight-end formations. They ran 10 plays with two tight ends.

I suggest the plan was to keep Wilson in shotgun formation to give him a little more room to maneuver in case there were breakdowns up front. The Seahawks were third in the league in shotgun snaps in Week 1, trailing San Francisco (76) and Kansas City (58).

Using the shotgun is probably a good idea against the Rams and Donald, particularly knowing Wilson’s ankle will be sore. The wear-and-tear of taking a snap from center and retreating into three- and five-step drops might be too taxing on his ankle and too dangerous.

Even more so than in the opener, Wilson will need to get rid of his passes quicker and get his handoffs faster in case Donald and other members of the Rams’ defense break through the blocking scheme.

To beat the Rams, the Seahawks need to rely on Wilson’s smarts than his legs. He will need to be more of a pocket quarterback. Knowing rest is the ultimate cure for an injury of this type, Wilson might have to use this strategy through Seattle’s first four games and into the bye week.

The Seahawks will stay with J’Marcus Webb at right guard and will need a better game from left guard Mark Glowinski. Justin Britt was fine at center.

In other words, the Seahawks can’t try to get too fancy to get through the Rams game. Coach Jeff Fisher knows this team too well and will focus his defense on making Wilson uncomfortable.

The Seahawks’ offense is talented enough to score more than 25 points a game, but against Los Angeles, they will probably have to lower the expectations and hope the defense holds the Rams to 14 points or fewer.

Graham figures to get in on more plays this week, and there might be a few more two-tight-end sets, which would help the blocking.

One final point: Did you see who started at right guard for New Orleans Sunday? It was Jahri Evans, who was released by the Seahawks on the cut-down to 53. He was the starter, although he alternated with Senio Kelemete. Evans had 60 plays, Kelemete 10.

Evans looked aged with the Seahawks and maybe it wasn’t a fit here. Regardless, until the bye week, the Seahawks, with a banged-up Wilson, will just have to get through and use their minds to get off to a 4-0 start.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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