Some things you just don't understand until you take a gametape, wring its neck and shake every last detail from it. And some things are pretty clear from the first viewing. From that second department arises an underreported rejoinder to the purported rise of Todd Collins and the Redskins' passing attack: They faced inferior competition. Against the Vikings, rookie Chris McCauley was getting beat all over the field, including two clueless blown coverages on the Skins two first half touchdown receptions. The Cowboys, in all their week 17, second-string splendor, didn't start Terrence Newman. Newman is a personal favorite of mine, a coverage corner on par with Marcus Trufant, but 2 years older and with slightly inferior ball skills. In the three contests Newman missed, the Boys allowed 6.8-7.2 yards per pass attempt (season average, 4.9) and 27.3 points per contest (against such offensive luminaries as Miami (16.7), NYG (23.3) and Washington (20.9)). Those two contests represent the better part of Collins stellar play. I only saw pieces of the irrelevant Cowboys affair, but if it was anything like the Skins contest against the Vikings, easy receptions created by blown coverage weren't the exception, but the standard.
So how, other than not losing Tru to injury or starting their scrubs, can Seattle avoid the deadly blown coverage? It starts by limiting Collins' time in the pocket. All pass D, in fact, starts with a good pass rush. Need quick and dirty proof? The Denver Broncos, who imported one of the best corners in all of football, Dre' Bly, to pair with the reigning best corner in football, Champ Bailey, featured only the 19th ranked pass defense in all of football in 2007. The problem, an anemic pass rush. Despite ranking 26th in Adjusted Sack Rank, the Broncos were the worst team in football at "hurrying" the quarterback in 2006. Hurries and not sacks are the best indicator of consistent pass rush. For Seattle to be successful on Sunday, they needn't bury Collins, just panic the clumsy-footed soft tosser. Let's walk down the matchups, and see where the Hawks rush might come from.
Darryl Tapp Vs Chris Samuels
Samuels is steady. He allows some sacks, about 1 every three contests for his career. He's developed a bit of a false start problem, 5 on the season, but is an excellent run blocker. Samuels is a good all around tackle, he moves effectively in space, is strong enough, and plays low enough that he's rarely walked back, and when walked back, he doesn't give up on his blocks. That combination makes it unlikely that Darryl Tapp, who thrives against tackles who play high and/or get lazy (either might explain his sack against HOF bound blocker Jonathan Ogden), will be an impact player this Saturday. As has been the case for so much of the season, Tapp must only present enough of a threat to help free up his linemates. Any pressure he can create, must be considered a victory in an otherwise losing matchup against the Skins' best lineman.
Brandon Mebane Vs Pete Kendall and Casey Rabach
On pass plays, Bane should expect regular combo blocks from this pair. Both are similar players, finesse blockers that succeed in pass pro with good body position and sound technique. Mebane is a young stud, but it would be ludicrous to imply that he should regularly split the two and create pressure himself. No, Bane needs only to do what he does best, force double teams. If he can, and he should, it's up to his tackle-mate to do the damage.
Rocky Bernard Vs Jason Fabini
From 2002 to 2005 offensive tackle Jason Fabini averaged just under 8 sacks allowed per season, including 7.25 allowed in just 9 games for the 2005 Jets. Since then, Fabini has become a guard. 6-7, 309 is not exactly the prototypical build for a guard, but though he's substandard as a run blocker, he's been average as a pass blocker. Like his two interior linemates, Fabini works well in space and can execute Al Saunders' demanding regimen of pull blocks, but Fabini also possesses a quick first step and the reach to lock his hands on the defender's shoulder pads and stand him up. A healthy, attacking Bernard should be able to get into Fabini's body, establish leverage, and then do his Big Rock thing tossing Fabini out of the way and surging to the ball carrier. This is the key matchup, and I'll explain why in just a second.
Patrick Kerney Vs Stephon Heyer
One on one, Heyer is smoked turkey against Kerney. Heyer is a narrow shouldered, slightly built right tackle. He's not very quick around the edge, gets high in his blocks, is not very strong hand fighting and painfully slow out of the blocks. Heyer is an excellent example of the kind of depth you get when you splurge in free agency on the Brandon Lloyds of the world. The Skins do their best to protect Heyer by flanking him with a tight end, H-Back or an offset right fullback. So far, it's been moderately successful. The perfect foil for a double team, though, is another player who can consistently win his matchup. That's where we go back to Bernard. If Mebane forces double teams, I feel confident he will, and Bernard is then left single blocked, Bernard can dispose of Fabini and force the Skins into the impossible scenario of 2 defensive linemen, side by side, demanding double teams. Because Bernard provides interior rush, a relative priority to the slower developing exterior rush, he might not make a huge dent in the stat department, but if Kerney looks dominant as hell, ripping through Heyer one on one, it's probably because Big Rock is absorbing all the double teams.