Seahawks Players to Watch: Running backs will be critical against Rams

Dec 6, 2019, 8:43 AM | Updated: Dec 7, 2019, 11:47 am
Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin...
Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin is one of four players to watch for Sunday against the Rams. (Getty)

The Seahawks go back to battle with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football in a rematch of the Week 5 30-29 thriller where Seattle came out on top on Thursday Night Football in Seattle.

Carroll: Seahawks are ready for final stretch, starting with LA Rams

Both teams are in the NFC playoff picture as well. The Seahawks have won five-straight games and sit at 10-2 after a 37-30 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday and are looking for a division crown and a potential first-round playoff bye. The Rams, meanwhile, are 7-5 and are fighting for a wild card berth after winning the NFC last season.

As always, the game will be broadcast on both 710 ESPN Seattle and 97.3 KIRO FM starting three hours before kickoff. For more information on how to listen to the broadcast, visit this link.

In an important NFC West matchup that will likely have a major impact on the NFC playoff picture, and there are four Seahawks players you should keep a close eye on during Sunday’s road showdown.

Shaquill Griffin

A year ago, the Rams trailed only the Kansas City Chiefs in total offense. Los Angeles was averaging 421 yards per game, nearly 140 yards on the ground, and Sean McVay’s high-flying, creative offense kickstarted the search for the next great coaching wunderkind.

This season they’ve fallen to 10th in total offense, which isn’t bad, but is a surprise step back. Most surprising has been the performance from running back Todd Gurley, who is sitting at 642 yards through Week 13 and is on pace for the lowest production of his career. The two-time All-Pro, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 13 or more touchdowns in each of his last two seasons, has yet to surpass 100 rushing yards in a single game.

The result? The Rams have dropped to 25th in rushing offense. The decline has limited what they’ve been able to accomplish through the air, but their passing offense remains a threat even with uneven performances from quarterback Jared Goff, which is why Seattle’s secondary will have its hands full.

The Rams are still averaging 275 yards through the air – more than Seattle – and boast one of the league’s best wide receiver groups. Slot receiver Cooper Kupp is leading the charge with 945 yards this seasons, but Roberts Woods (835 yards) and Brandin Cooks (458 yards) are also impact players. Tight end Gerald Everett had a team high 136 yards when the Seahawks faced the Rams in Week 5, but he’s day-to-day with a knee injury and missed practice Wednesday.

Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin will be just one part of containing the Rams’ passing attack, but his performance this year makes him a player worth watching in this matchup. Griffin leads the team with 13 passes defensed (linebacker K.J. Wright is the next closest with eight). He also finished Week 13 as the second-highest graded Seahawks defender according to Pro Football Focus.

The running backs

There are a few reasons this is a particularly interesting week for Seattle’s running backs.

First, Chris Carson needs just 19 yards to reach his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. Carson would become the first Seahawks running back with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Marshawn Lynch did it in 2013 and 2014.

Second, Rashaad Penny has a chance to build on his two best outings. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12, Penny had a career-high 129 yards, and he followed that up with his first career multi-touchdown game in a win over the Vikings on Monday night.

Third, the Seahawks have had success in the rushing game against the Rams in particular. Seattle had 167 rushing yards against the Rams in a Week 5 win and even in their losses last season managed two of their best games on the ground.

It’s not entirely clear why the Seahawks have found success against a Rams defensive front that includes the best defensive player in football, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, but what is clear – at least to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer – is that when Carson and Penny get rolling, the offense feels unstoppable.

“We’re very difficult to deal with when that’s going on like that,” Schottenheimer said Thursday. “Again, it starts with the guys up front. The tight ends are very involved. But, when those two guys are feeling it like that, it’s very energetic. The guys feel the energy. It’s truly tangible. You can just feel it like there’s no question.”

Rasheem Green

During 710 ESPN Seattle’s “The Huddle” on Thursday, host Dave Wyman noted how Seattle’s 2018 draft class has been able to contribute more in Year 2. Among those contributors are Penny, cornerback Tre Flowers, linebacker Shaquem Griffin and defensive end Rasheem Green.

Green has been particularly impressive in his two most recent games, where he has combined for a sack, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He has a chance to see more snaps Sunday night if fellow pass rusher Ziggy Ansah is limited.

Ansah suffered a stinger in Monday’s game and exited the game, though head coach Pete Carroll said the issues resolved itself. Still, he was listed on this week’s practice report with a neck injury (and during Tuesday morning’s Pete Carroll Show, the head coach mentioned Ansah’s ongoing issue with his surgically-repaired shoulder). As of Thursday afternoon, Ansah was listed as limited.

“He looks like he’s doing OK so far,” Carroll said. “We won’t know for a couple days if he’s clear and all that.”

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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Seahawks Players to Watch: Running backs will be critical against Rams