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Cowboys @ Seahawks: “Interior pressure has, traditionally, really caused Russell Wilson headaches”

We went to the experts to find out more about the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With the Seattle Seahawks on the docket for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, we need some inside info on just how the team from the Pacific Northwest is doing - and how to potentially stop them. For that, we turned to Field Gulls, the best Seahawks site around.

Blogging The Boys: The Seahawks seem to be on board with letting Russ cook. Has the offense really changed, or were the first couple of games more of a reflection of personnel, injuries, scheme and matchups and the Seahawks could go back to their previous tendencies?

Field Gulls: The team does seem to have a more sensible approach this year. Russell Wilson is playing better than ever and in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, has the best 1-2 combination of wide receivers he has ever had. They should be passing more often. There will almost certainly be games with run/pass splits that reflect the rest of the Pete Carroll era but it’s when those runs come that is of interest to me. In 2018, the first year with Brian Schottenheimer as OC, Seattle ran on 1st and 10 65% of the time and on 2nd and 7+ 46% of the time. In 2019, those numbers dropped to 53% and 37%. This year, they’re at 43% and 9%. It will never get to the extreme that the majority of the #LetRussCook crowd wants but a genuine development worth tracking is not about running less necessarily, but being smarter about when they do run. They seem to be doing that.

BTB: How do the injuries to Bruce Irvin and Marquise Blair affect the defense?

FG: Bruce Irvin is so unique and after he left in free agency several years ago, the Seahawks tried and failed to replicate what he does with a few players. He is emblematic of how Pete Carroll describes the defense, “4-3 scheme with 3-4 personnel,” as a standup LB on early downs and someone who rushes on passing downs. Really, his total skillset isn’t replicated on the roster, so it will be on K.J. Wright to slide over to SAM (most likely) and take on those snaps, while rookie fifth-round pick Alton Robinson will get a chance to crack the pass rush rotation to fill it out that way.

Marquise Blair was a big boost to the defense’s play speed and tackling. They were attempting to convert him to nickel with a lot of positive results but without him, they’ll turn to a more natural nickel in Ugo Amadi. The drop off between those two may not be massive, but the real impact could be that without Blair, there is a chance Seattle plays a lot more base defense—as they are focused on the best 11 players rather than matching an offense’s personnel.

BTB: Who are a couple of under-the-radar guys we might not be hearing much about but have been integral to the hot start?

FG: This is an interesting question because honestly, the best performers have been the stars: Wilson, Metcalf, Lockett, Jamal Adams, and Bobby Wagner have all shown up in a major way. Let’s go to a former Longhorn though, in defensive tackle Poona Ford. Seattle’s defensive line has been about as suspect as people expected but the run defense has been solid. Ford, the defense’s 0/1-tech, is a big part of that. He improved a ton between 2018 and ‘19 and the expectation is he takes another step forward this season. He really is a great run defender and his ability to defend laterally and at the point of attack will be crucial vs Ezekiel Elliott.

BTB: If you were a defensive coordinator, how would you scheme a defense to try and contain Russell Wilson?

FG: I would play as light of a box as possible and try like hell to tempt Carroll and Schottenheimer into taking the ball out of Wilson’s hands. Wilson is displaying a level of mastery we haven’t quite seen yet, he is a singular force. Do you bracket Lockett, his go-to in any situation, but leave Metcalf matched up in a 1-on-1? Do you slide coverage over the top to Metcalf’s side and let Lockett find a pocket of space like he does so well? It’s an incredibly difficult passing attack to defend.

I would bring pressure often from a variety of spots. Loop Everson Griffen and Demarcus Lawrence inside from the edge and test the communication and cohesion of a new C-G-T trio on the right side. Interior pressure has, traditionally, really caused Wilson headaches. He is doing a lot better in the face of it this year, but I think that’s really the best option.

BTB: From what you’ve seen of the Cowboys, what problems do they present that are of the most concern for the Seahawks?

FG: After the acquisition of Adams, Seahawks fans began to anticipate a legitimately elite secondary: Adams is rare, Quandre Diggs was a revelation during the second half of last season at free safety, Shaquill Griffin played at an All-Pro level before he got hurt, and Quinton Dunbar was PFF’s second-highest ranked CB (whatever that’s worth). They have not been that so far—their pass defense is 29th in DVOA—but a lot of that is on a toothless pass rush and playing the large majority of Week 2 without Diggs. That being said, the Cowboys’ passing game and trio of receivers scare me. Amari Cooper has given Griffin problems before and elite route runners traditionally feast vs Carroll’s defense, CeeDee Lamb is a matchup problem, and Michael Gallup is as good of a second wide receiver as there is. They’re difficult enough to stick with as is. But compounding the issue is Seattle’s inability to create pressure. Dak Prescott will be able to sit back there and find the open man time and time again.

It’s going to be a shootout. It’s going to be a glorious, frustrating shootout.

Thanks for the knowledge, Field Gulls.

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