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John Clayton: 5 Things to watch in Seahawks-Giants

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was also Seattle's leading rusher in 2017. (AP)

The Seahawks face the New York Giants at an interesting time.

Head coach Ben McAdoo handed the play-calling ability to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan last week in what was a 23-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. Still, the Giants are 1-5. The offense has been pretty bad, and a the defense — which was one of the most improved in football last year — has struggled in 2017.

O’Neil: Seahawks provide little reason for confidence heading to New York

The NFC West race is heating up with the good start of the Los Angeles Rams and the reawakening of the Arizona Cardinals after the Adrian Peterson trade, so the Seahawks can’t afford to stumble in a road game in which they are favored.

Here are some things to look for Sunday in the game against the Giants.

Unlike the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks defense won’t be caught by surprise by the Giants offense. Last Sunday night, the Broncos watched the Giants change from a three-receiver offense into a two tight-end running attack after losing their top four receivers to injury. The Giants used multiple tight end sets more than 70 percent of their plays. Engram caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The Giants could have wide receiver Sterling Shepard available. He suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago. The Giants totally revamped their offense in a week. They went to more power running. Backs lined up closer to the line of scrimmage. To counter, the Seahawks will use Michael Wilhoite more than in most games to help stop the run. Don’t be surprised to see a little more of safety Bradley McDougald to try to help cover tight ends in coverage.

Stopping Giants tight end Evan Engram will be a challenge. Engram, the Giants first-round pick, is a budding star. Even though he’s a tight end, he is wide-receiver fast. He’s been clocked with a 4.2 40. With that speed, it may force the Seahawks to put a cornerback on him or McDougald. Fortunately for the Seahawks defense, they’ve had plenty of experience this year against two tight end sets and they’ve done pretty well. In five games, opposing tight ends have caught 25 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown. Quarterbacks are only completing 56.8 percent of their throws to tight ends.

This could be a good game for Seahawks tight ends. The Giants defense has surrendered a touchdown pass to tight ends in each of their six games, as noted by ESPN’s Jordan Raanan. Even worse, opposing quarterbacks are connecting on 72.9 of their passes to tight ends. The first test is where the Seahawks line up tight end Jimmy Graham. In the victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Graham lined up away from the tackle in flex positions for 31 snaps, and caught a red zone touchdown. The Seahawks have also been mixing in Luke Willson a little bit more.

Checking out the Seahawks pass rush. With Cliff Avril going on the injured reserve list, the Seahawks have to see how well Frank Clark, Marcus Smith and other defensive ends will do. Michael Bennett will be testing out to see how well he can rush despite his plantar fascia injury. What should also help are the problems the Giants have on offense. Their offense isn’t very good and is one of the reasons for the team’s 1-5 start. Eli Manning is a standing target behind center and has never been very mobile. Manning has been sacked 16 times, which isn’t bad. Because of the offensive line problems, Manning has been getting rid of the ball quicker than in the past. His yards per attempt is 6.6. It was 6.7 last year. His yards per completion is 9.9, ranking 29th in the league.

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 the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
  • Tune in to 710 ESPN Seattle weekdays at 10am for John Clayton's show.

The Professor’s Notes

John Clayton hosts a daily video breaking down the latest NFL news.