The 1-1 Seattle Seahawks are taking on an 0-2 Carolina Panthers team that has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball. Starting quarterback Bryce Young, who is set to miss Sunday’s game, has thrown for just 299 yards. Mikes Sanders is averaging only 3.59 yards per carry and their offensive line has allowed eight sacks. As a result of those struggles the Seahawks, who are coming off of an overtime win against the Detroit Lions, are a 6-point favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. Seattle has a very strong chance to cover that spread especially if they are able to dominate in the trenches, an area the Panthers have been very poor in.
After being selected sixth overall in 2022 it was anticipated that Ekonwu would be able to step in and make an instant impact for this Carolina Panthers offensive line. Like Charles Cross, he has shown plenty of flashes, but he has also had his fair share of struggles. He is a fantastic run blocker in space which is something he will likely be tasked with doing with some regularity on Sunday. However, in pass pro he has his shortcomings and lapses in judgment. As we can see in the first tweet, rather than taking Kayvon Thibodeaux who is lined up in front of him and based on how the right guard plays, Ekonwu’s assignment, he switches off and slides inside. As a result, the former Oregon Duck gets gifted one of the easiest sacks he will ever get.
On the second play we can see Ekonwu get beaten with a really simple swim move. The main reason it was so effective is because Ekonwu leaned forward too much and overshot to the outside on what was an inside run. When Ekonwu struggles in the running game, it is almost always on runs inside the tackles so the likes of Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor can be in for big days against the run.
The interior of the Carolina Panthers offensive line is beaten up and struggling. Starting guards Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen are both currently out with injuries and starting center Bradley Bozeman has not exactly been putting on a clinic. Cade Mays, the right guard on the play that gets highlighted above is going to be tasked with blocking the likes of Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed. The starting left guard is rookie fourth-round pick Chandler Zavala, who despite only playing in two games this season has 52 more career snaps than the right guard.
Individual matchups aside, Seahawks fans should be looking for Clint Hurtt to use multiple twists and stunts against a Panthers offensive line that is young, inexperienced and has hardly played together. If their communication and chemistry is lacking over the course of the game, those styles of blitzes can become major weapons.
Off-season signing Dre’mont Jones has yet to flash much in Clint Hurtt’s defense through his first two games, although this feels like the perfect get-right game for him. As highlighted above, the interior of the offensive line is going to be a problem for the Panthers. Despite not using them yet, as highlighted in my off-season coverage of him, Jones is a player with a deep tool chest of moves in both against the run and the pass. It might be a bold prediction, but I think Jones is going to wreck this game for the Panthers. He will amass at least two tackles for a loss and a sack on top of that.
On the snap before Devon Witherspoon's fourth down pass breakup, Jordyn Brooks and Uchenna Nwosu get credit for the third down tackle for loss. But this play happened because of Jarran Reed's immediate disruption from interior to force back to spin outside to teammates. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/ttHMcHLw5a— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) September 20, 2023
With Bryce Young extremely unlikely to play Sunday, Andy Dalton is going to be the starting quarterback for the Panthers. This likely means two things: Carolina will look to lean on the running game more as Dalton at this stage is limited as a passer, and the former Bengal will likely struggle with any interior penetration as he is not as mobile as he used to be. If Seattle can get interior pressure, not only will it limit a struggling running game, but it will also significantly affect Dalton as a passer. It would be nice to see the edge defenders beat the likes of Ekonwu on Sunday. But if Jones, Reed and co. can win on the inside, the Seahawks will run away with the game.