JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: 5 things to watch for in Seahawks’ home opener against the 49ers

Sep 15, 2017, 10:17 AM | Updated: 10:50 am
seahawks, jimmy graham, russell wilson...
The Seahawks may not be the powerhouse they once were, but things are still rosy for sports in Seattle. (AP)
(AP)

Offensive line play is a big topic in the NFL these days.

All of a sudden, the level of play in the NFL has dropped because so many teams have problems along the offensive line. The Thursday night game between the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals was a classic example; the quarterbacks were consistently harassed, and the blocking was horrible.

Clayton: Seahawks have plenty of things to settle after Week 1 loss in Green Bay

So much of the blame goes to the spread offenses in college that don’t teach offensive linemen what they need to play in the NFL. Linemen have to wait until they get into the NFL to work with their hand on the ground. Offensive line play has also been a big topic in Seattle for the past couple of years, and was a major theme in the season-opener against the Green Bay because of the struggles blocking. But this is a league-wide issue, not just a Seattle case.

Here are five things to watch in the Seahawks game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday.

1. Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson against 49ers guard Zane Beadles.

Beadles had a rough start in the season-opener against Carolina. He gave up a sack and probably had one of the worst games of his career. Now, if he isn’t replaced by could be replaced by Laken Tomlinson, he goes against Richardson, the newest Seahawks defensive tackle. Richardson got off to a good start, sacking Aaron Rodgers once and showing how well he fits into a defensive line that needed more inside pass rush. The Seahawks were looking for a three-technique defensive tackle who could get between five and eight sacks. He also takes some double-team blocking away from Michael Bennett.

2. Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham against 49ers strong safety Eric Reid.

Graham had only three catches for eight yards in the Packers game, and coach Pete Carroll admitted the veteran tight end had a “hard game.” Graham needs a big game Sunday, and while everyone talks about getting the ball to Graham in the redzone, he needs to do better between the 20’s. As the strong safety, Reid would match up against him a lot when the team isn’t in nickel. Last week, Reid limited Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who caught two passes for 18 yards. Graham did well against the 49ers last year, with a six-catch, 100-yard game in Week 3. In the season finale against San Francisco, he caught four passes for 64 yards.

3. Seahawks offensive line versus the 49ers defensive line.

It’s hard to pick out one or two matchups along the line, since just about everyone along the Seahawks offensive line struggled in the season opener. Pete Carroll and offensive line coordinator Tom Cable aren’t expected to make many changes for now, but if the bad play continues they might to go some of the backups. Right guard Mark Glowinski could give way to Oday Aboushi. Germain Ifedi didn’t play too poorly, but Ethan Pocic is behind him. Meanwhile, the 49ers are trying to figure how their investments along the defensive line works in the team’s new 4-3 defensive scheme.  They have drafted defensive linemen in the first round for the past three years, but in two of those years they were drafting to a 3-4 scheme. Now, they have to see how Arik Armstead works as a 4-3 defensive end and see how DeForest Buckner looks at defensive tackle. They drafted Solomon Thomas as a right end for the scheme, but he’s not starting yet.

4. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on third downs.

The key of the offense is getting manageable third down opportunities. The Seahawks were three-for-12 on third downs in Week 1. So much of the problem was the lack of a running game; Seahawks running backs had only 15 running plays for 53 yards, or half of what was needed. Six times last week, Wilson had to try to convert a third-down play that was 10 to 18 yards away from a first down. Wilson also failed to convert a few third-and-short yardage situations. All of that led a game in which the Seahawks didn’t generate a touchdown drive and had only had 49 offensive plays.

5. Figuring out a running back rotation.

Rookie Chris Carson emerged as the most active running back last week, with 29 plays (compared to 16 for C.J. Prosise and seven for Eddie Lacy). Thomas Rawls missed the game with a high ankle sprain, but he’s available this week. Prosise’s primary role will remain being the pass-catching running back on passing downs, which means Carroll has to figure out who gets the carries on early downs between Carson, Lacy and Rawls. Does he start Rawls for energy? Lacy is off to a slow start and Carson has been the best back this summer.

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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