The 3 Questions: Should Seahawks brace for another weird one vs Cards?

Dec 18, 2019, 1:19 AM
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
The Seahawks and Cardinals have a knack for winning in each other's home stadiums. (AP)

The first-place Seahawks (11-3) will play the Arizona Cardinals (4-9-1) this Sunday for the first of two home games to end the regular season.

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Here are three questions surrounding the team this week.

Who steps up in place of Josh Gordon?

On Monday, the league announced an indefinite suspension for Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon, citing a violation of its substance abuse policy. On a personal level, Gordon’s latest suspension is a somber development for the 28 year old who has been open about his struggles with substance abuse and has previously been dealt suspensions for the same violation. On the field, though, Gordon’s limited history with Seattle might make it easier for Seattle to transition his role to another player.

When the Seahawks first claimed Gordon off waivers, they were hesitant to get him too involved in the offense too quickly. In fact, he played in fewer than 40 percent of offensive snaps and saw two or fewer targets in all but one contest.

The problem is that four of his seven receptions came on third down and in pivotal moments, while a fifth came on fourth down. He set the tone early as a reliable third-down target against San Francisco, when he had one reception in the fourth quarter and another in overtime. So the Seahawks aren’t replacing Gordon’s volume so much as they are his veteran presence and, as evidenced with this catch against the Carolina Panthers, his undeniable talent.

It’s not easy to replace that with a pool of first- and second-year players, but a few young Seahawks should at least have an opportunity. While Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will continue to lead the pack, Gordon’s absence could mean more targets for Malik Turner – one of Seattle’s speediest receivers – David Moore, or rookie John Ursua. Ursua has drawn early comparisons to former Seahawk Doug Baldwin, but has only appeared in two games this year.

How does Quandre Diggs’ injury impact the Seahawks’ D?

Quandre Diggs has only strengthened Seattle’s secondary since being acquired via trade in October. In five games with the Seahawks, Diggs has three interceptions, a touchdown, and three passes defended. Just as important, the five-year veteran and former Detroit Lions captain brings experience and savvy to a safety tandem that also includes veteran Bradley McDougald. Diggs is the most experienced player at the position – behind him on the depth chart are Lano Hill and rookie Marquise Blair. It was Hill who took over the bulk of snaps after Diggs’ exit Sunday.

“Lano played really well,” head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “I thought Bradley had a really good game. Was very active. Quandre did, too. He made a number of nice tackles in perimeter situations. Looked really good. Lano came in and filled in for him. Those guys played well back there fitting in. There’s a good chance that Lano will get the playing time, along with Marquise (Blair). We’re fortunate that we have guys that have been out there before.”

The question isn’t who fills in for Diggs if he can’t recover from a high ankle sprain in time for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals – Hill and Blair are the immediate options there. Rather, the question concerns what the drop-off might look like with Diggs out of the fold. Should either Hill or Blair start, he’ll at least have some help with a few returning starters in the front seven.

Are we in for another weird Seahawks-Cardinals game?

The Seahawks need to win in both Week 16 and Week 17 if they want to hang on to the NFC’s No. 1 seed. They’ll face a tough task against the 11-3 49ers in Week 17, but it would be a mistake to look past the 4-9-1 Cardinals. That’s partly because the Cardinals are better than their record – quarterback Kyler Murray posted a 100-plus passer rating in each of Arizona’s losses to the 49ers – but it’s also because weird things tend to happen when they two teams face each other.

The Cardinals stunned the Seahawks’ by handing them their first home loss of the season in 2013. There was the 6-6 tie in 2016 (the only tie on Carroll’s pro coaching record, with Seattle or otherwise), and this matchup saw the last Seahawks games played by Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in 2017 and Earl Thomas in 2018.

Seattle leads the series history, but it’s just a 21-19 edge. These two teams also have a penchant for winning in the other’s home stadium, as well. Still, the Seahawks have won the last three consecutive meetings and have the upper hand with talent. They’re 10-point favorites and they should win. But are fans in store for another strange one this Sunday?

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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The 3 Questions: Should Seahawks brace for another weird one vs Cards?