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Opponent Preview: Seattle Seahawks

Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
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Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis Rams
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The Seattle Seahawks are the picture of an overachiever.

Their head coach wasn’t supposed to be able to coach above the college level. Their quarterback was too short to play the position. Their running back was considered to be washed up after being traded at the age of 24. And their defense is made up of rookies, no-names and late-round draft picks.

Don’t get it twisted, though – this group isn’t playing some unsustainable, unconscionable level of football. Rather, the Seahawks are simply a team that’s sum is greater than it’s pretty good parts.

It starts on defense. The Seahawks defensive line is strong and deep, cycling in stalwarts Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane and newcomers Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones. The Seahawks are allowing a stout 58.7 rushing yards per game through three games this season, second-fewest in the league. And they get after the quarterback, too – the defense’s 10 sacks are fourth-most in the NFL. Clemons is the defensive line’s ringleader, having already registered five sacks through three games.

They do it without household names, too. The Lofa Tatupu days are gone, replaced by guys like MLB Bobby Wagner, CB Brandon Browner and SS Kam Chancellor. And it’s mostly homegrown talent – 10 of the 11 starters on defense were either drafted by the Seahawks or signed as undrafted free agents. Of those, only FS Earl Thomas was a first-round pick.

If the defense thrives without first-round talent, the offense struggles to survive even with first-round RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is a powerful runner given the nickname “Beast Mode” for his propensity to run over any and all defenders in his path. Lynch is averaging 4.2 yards per carry on the season, and the Seahawks as a team are averaging over 141 yards per game. Lynch and QB Russell Wilson pose threats as a ground attack.

Through the air is where the Seahawks struggle. Despite ranking sixth in rushing yards per game, the Seahawks are 29th out of 32 teams in total yards. Wilson won the job in training camp over free agent acquisition Matt Flynn but is still more of a game manager than playmaker at the position, posting a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio but only completing 57 percent of his passes through three weeks.

Part of Wilson’s learning curve is throwing to an average group of receivers. Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Ben Obamanu and Braylon Edwards all have things they do well, but overall the group is lacking a true difference-maker.

Where the Rams defense may have success this week is the same area the Bears succeeded in disrupting the Rams offense last week – shutting down the passing game and getting pressure on the quarterback. If the Rams secondary can shackle the Seahawks receivers, defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn should hassle Wilson all day long. The expected return of DT Michael Brockers will go a long way toward keeping Lynch under wraps as well. In all, Sunday should be a defensive battle perhaps decided by which defense comes up with a key play in a crucial situation.

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