Seahawks-Cards By the Numbers: How much missing Quandre Diggs hurts
The Seahawks are two wins away from clinching the NFC West title, but they’ll need to get past the Arizona Cardinals before they can deal with the San Francisco 49ers. And despite a 4-9-1 record, the Cardinals still have talent on their roster, something that was evident in their win (and best performance of the season) over the Cleveland Browns last week.
Here’s a look at Sunday’s Seahawks-Cardinals matchup, by the numbers:
That’s the number of passing yards opposing quarterbacks were averaging against Seattle’s defense before the addition of safety Quandre Diggs. Since Week 10, Diggs’ first start, the Seahawks’ defense is allowing 258.2 yards from opposing passers. The Seahawks have also seen an increase in turnovers per game, going from 1.7 on average over the first nine weeks to 3.2 since Week 10.
To be clear, Diggs isn’t the sole factor behind that change. Week 10 also marked a spark for the defense as a whole. It was in that game that Seattle registered five sacks of San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after tallying just 15 through Week 9. It was pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney who was the most dominant player in that game, with one sack, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. The following week saw Ziggy Ansah’s best game with the Seahawks (1.5 sacks, four tackles, two quarterback hits, one forced fumble), a strong performance by second-year pro Rasheem Green, and a nice outing from cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who leads the team in passes defended and was named a Pro Bowl alternate earlier this week.
But Diggs’ has had a noticeable impact on the defense – so much so that when asked about Diggs, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. kept it simple:
“He’s been here five games and he’s a Pro Bowl alternate,” Norton said. “He’s never been to the Pro Bowl before. That shows you the impact he’s had in our secondary. On our team, he’s fit in really well. You see the plays that he’s made and the solidification he’s had on the back end. He and (Bradley McDougald) are working really good together. It makes a difference.”
The bad news is that Diggs has a high-ankle sprain and didn’t practice for a second straight day on Thursday, and it sounds as though he’s a longshot to play.
“I think Quandre’s the guy that has the hardest shot getting back,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when addressing the week’s injuries during an interview with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “He had a pretty good ankle sprain and was not able to work at all yet. But we’re not going to close the door on that one until gametime.”
If Diggs is inactive Sunday, there’s a good chance the start will go to third-year pro Lano Hill. Hill stepped up in place of Diggs in the second half of last week’s win over the Panthers and Carroll was pleased with his performance.
“Lano played really well,” Carroll said Monday. “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 number of touchdowns scored last week by running back Kenyan Drake, proving that the Seahawks aren’t the only team that improved with a mid-season trade.
The Cardinals acquired Drake in a trade with Miami in October. Since coming to Arizona, Drake has 547 combined yards and five touchdowns in six games. His finest performance came in a win last week over the Cleveland Browns where he rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns.
“Kenyan Drake, he is the difference-maker on their team since we’ve played them,” Carroll said to Monson. “He’s the running back they’ve utilized in the running and in the throwing game. He’s averaging close to five yards per carry, has 2- something catches in the games that he’s been with them. And he’s really just seemed to perk up their offense… he’s really fast and he uses it well. He’s just a good, good football player.”
Carroll also noted that, perhaps because of Drake’s arrival, the Cardinals have adapted their personnel since the Week 4 meeting between these two teams.
The Seahawks have fared well against the run this year. They’ve allowed more than 100 rushing yards from opponents just six times, but three of those have come in the last four weeks (against the Eagles, Rams, and Panthers). The absences of outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Clowney haven’t helped matters, but both have a chance to return this week.
That’s where the Cardinals’ defense ranks league-wide. Arizona is allowing 413 yards per game from opposing offenses, making them one of just two teams currently allowing 400 or more yards per game, in addition to the 31st-ranked Detroit Lions.
That’s despite the fact that both of Arizona’s 2019 Pro Bowlers are on defense: linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker. And those honors are well-earned. Jones has 15 sacks this year – over half of Seattle’s team total – while Baker has six passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 125 tackles.
The Seahawks will have to be wary of both Chandler and Baker, but Sunday could also bring a chance for another fast start on offense.
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