(CBS Detroit) CBS Seattle asked us to give insight into what their Seahawks will face against the Detroit Lions — good and bad.
And then they returned the favor. Our Will Burchfield sent them a list of questions and CBS Seattle’s sportswriters responded with insights of their own on how the Lions will fare this weekend.
The Seahawks haven’t looked the same since losing Earl Thomas. How will they make up for his absence on Saturday?
At the risk of taking the easy way out of this answer, there just isn’t any way (right now) to completely fill the void left by Thomas’ absence. He has the uncanny ability, speed and instinct to cover deep. Steven Terrell has done a fine job of filling in, but has been beat a couple times simply because it’s hard to replicate what Earl can do. This was most obvious in Seattle’s home loss against the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Eve. On one play in that game, it looked like Terrell didn’t anticipate correctly, didn’t make the right read, or just misplayed the pass, took a few steps in and to the right and couldn’t recover in time, leaving Jeremy Lane one-on-one with receiver J.J. Nelson, who beat him to the inside to get an 80-yard touchdown. (To his credit, Terrell took full blame for the play after the game.) He’s got a few games as a starter under his belt now, and it’s worth noting that he’s made great plays… it’s just really, really hard to replace Earl Thomas. Seattle will need to lean more heavily on its pass rush to put pressure on Stafford and hope he gives up a few picks downfield.
What are Russell Wilson’s limitations entering the game and will he be a threat to run the ball?
Wilson isn’t nearly as limited as he was earlier this season after suffering injuries to his knee (sprained MCL) and ankle. He’s been wearing a knee brace for a good chunk of the season, but has been able to practice without it for a while. On Wednesday this week, though, he told reporters he’s considering playing a game without the brace, which he believes now is more for safety than anything else. Doesn’t sound like a decision has been made, and we probably won’t know until Saturday, but I think it’s safe to assume he’d be able to move more easily without it. Question is whether he risks being reinjured or not. He’s going to be a threat to run the ball either way; but unlike in previous seasons, I don’t think there will be as many designed runs (but he’ll still be able to pick up yards if a play breaks down).
Jimmy Graham has had an up-and-down season. How have opposing teams been able to shut him down?
To be clear: Jimmy Graham has racked up almost 1,000 yards this season coming back from a completely ruptured patellar tendon. He finished with 65 receptions on 95 targets, 923 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s second in receiving yards behind wide receiver Doug Baldwin (1,128). Fans would love to see him get targeted more, but I’d argue Graham hasn’t had an “up and down season” so much as Seattle’s offense doesn’t depend on the pass nearly as much as New Orleans. He averaged 138 targets over four seasons with the Saints. He doesn’t get the number of targets he did in New Orleans, but has typically come through with the catches when Seattle needs it most (and is averaging a career-high 14.2 yards per reception). He’s an amazing athlete and offensive weapon, but I think Bevell & Co. are still, for the most part, committed to playing their version of Seahawks offense (one where they try to focus on the run and spread the ball around in the passing game). As far as shutting him down: You can put him in double coverage, but it’s still pretty hard to win a battle for that ball if you’re a DB going against a 6’7”/265 tight end. Through the last three games, he has 7 receptions on 12 targets, 138 yards and a touchdown (see: this jump ball at the one-yard line for a 42-yard gain). I’d say if there is a trick to shutting Graham down, it’s making sure the front seven pressures Wilson into throwing the ball away.
Cliff Avril, a former Lion, leads the Seahawks in sacks. Is he the biggest threat to get to Matthew Stafford?
Avril is having a phenomenal season, and it’s not going unnoticed (he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 9 year career). He definitely poses a threat to Stafford, but another player to keep an eye on is second-year defensive end Frank Clark. Clark stepped up big time when Michael Bennett was out with a knee injury. Now Bennett – always a disruptive force for opposing QBs – is back and healthy. The offensive line will have their eyes on veterans Bennett and Avril, which could free up Clark. Against the 49ers last week, he had 1.0 sack, four tackles and a forced fumble. Don’t be surprised to see him break through to put pressure on Stafford or get a few hits in.
What kind of reception do you expect Golden Tate to receive from the hometown fans?
Tate could get a few boos (maybe from fans who have had one too many) but I don’t think you could say he’s generally disliked or hated by Seahawks fans. He was a big part of their Super Bowl XLVIII run, and I think most fans still appreciate what he did here and acknowledge the real threat he poses on the Lions offense.