As the day of reckoning quickly approaches, the entirety of the Pacific Northwest sits on the edge of their seats – the Seattle Seahawks are going to play a meaningful match of football at 1:05 Pacific Time on Sunday afternoon. After the Super Bowl, the offseason generally drags on. But before you know it, the regular season has begun and our fingernails will be reduced to collective nubs due to ever-heightening stress concentrations.
The days leading up to Week 1 are those of hope and optimism for fans and teams alike. As the Seahawks prepare to face their first in a line of opponents, masses of 12s across the globe are left to sit and wonder whether or not their preferred franchise can live up to the sky-high potential this season.
No game is easily won in the NFL. Parity rules above all else. It’s just that some games are easier won on paper than others. Seattle’s opener against the Miami Dolphins looks to be one of its easier contests of the season in theory, but that doesn’t always translate to on-field success. They looked to be a far superior team to the Dolphins in 2012 until an inability to close out the contest led to a 24-21 loss as time expired.
There are several keys to the game that will decide whether or not the Seahawks can pull out a win on Sunday. I feel like Clare Farnsworth. That’s not a bad thing. Let’s dive in.
Slow Jarvis Landry
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill isn’t regarded amongst the ranks of the NFL’s best passers, but he has developed quite a connection with Landry, his favorite receiver. Landry put up big numbers last year, catching 110 balls for 1157 yards while scoring 7 touchdowns in the receiving, running, and return games. While I wouldn’t dub him one of the league’s most dynamic threats, you don’t accumulate 110 receptions without being a solid player.
Sophomore receiver DeVante Parker doesn’t look like he’ll play on Sunday, and even if he does, a lingering hamstring issue will hinder his effectiveness. It will be compelling to see if Richard Sherman follows Landry throughout the contest. Even if Kris Richard trusts Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead to also stick with Landry, shutting him down will be key to slowing Miami’s offense. Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and Arian Foster must be stopped as well, but Landry is priority number one for a Seahawks defense looking to get off to a fast start.
Avoid a Slow Start
Yes, that was a segue into the next key; the Seahawks have a reputation for looking sluggish from the get-go. Pete Carroll loves to get the run game going early in games to establish a tempo and keep his defense rested, but that doesn’t always work out in an ideal fashion. In a perfect world, the Seahawks scores early and often while the defense takes the ball away multiple times. The world isn’t a perfect place.
Realistically, I just want to see Seattle pass the eye test in the first half. The offense needs to showcase efficiency and the defense must fit the bill as the stingiest unit in the league. There are going to be kinks, but they need to be worked out before visiting the St. Louis… excuse me… Los Angeles Rams in Week Two.
Recurring three-and-outs to begin the game are unacceptable for this offense. Sustained drives are a must. The defense needs to get after the quarterback and create turnover opportunities. These are obvious requests from a team that has done pretty damn well over the last few years, but Week One is generally never a pretty affair for the Seahawks.
Get the Ball Out Quickly
What else would you expect it to be? Even after losing Olivier Vernon to the Giants, the Dolphins can get after the quarterback. Cameron Wake and Mario Williams are a bit long in the tooth but I wouldn’t put it past them to win their matchups a decent portion of the time against Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam.
The player that could wreck this game entirely for Seattle is Ndamukong Suh. The former second overall pick out of Nebraska is still one of the most feared interior pass rushers in the league and could wreak some serious havoc for Russell Wilson and company.
Defensive tackles living in the backfield were a common theme in 2015, and the challenge doesn’t relent against Suh without Germain Ifedi starting at right guard. Wilson will need to mitigate Suh’s inevitable penetration by being quick and decisive with his throws. If he can develop a tempo with his receivers, much of what Suh does will be rendered void.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has done horrific things to the Seahawks’ line over the last couple of years and he’s coming in hot next week. Suh is a great first test for this interior offensive line and Wilson.
Another benefit of getting the ball out quickly will be do-it-all safety Reshad Jones being forced to respect the short pass, opening up deeper routes. If the Dolphins’ two most talented defenders can be thwarted by Seattle’s passing tempo, then the Seahawks should start 2016 at 1-0.