4 things to watch: Seahawks vs. Rams
SEATTLE -- The Seahawks are home in Seattle for one of only two home games over the first two months of the NFL Season. They beat the Cowboys at CenturyLink Field back on Sept. 23. This week they'll face the 4-0 Rams who are coming off a Thursday night win over the Vikings.
Here are 4 things to watch between the Rams and the Seahawks:
1) Seahawks Defensive Backs
The Legion of Boom has gone bust . Earl Thomas' season-ending injury in Arizona last week puts an end to one of the greatest defensive units in the history of the NFL. So now what? The Seahawks have Tedric Thompson, who the coaches have raved about since training camp and continued to do so this week.
"We're excited about his play and he's just growing," Pete Carroll said Wednesday. "He's really mature about stuff, he's really worked hard to understand the scheme and the principles of what we want and he plays really strict and disciplined football. You put that all together, it makes for a chance to be a very productive player."
Along with Thompson, the Seahawks have added safety Maurice Alexander this week. Alexander was with the Seahawks during training camp and he's back just in time to face a Rams team he played for last season.
Alexander can play multiple positions.
"He's versatile, he's fast, he's smart, he has that defensive backs ability to play in different packages our speed package, our run-stopping package, our dime package," said Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. this week. "He's a type of guy that understands the system and he's very versatile in different ways that we can use him."
Thomas patrolled the back end of the defense and while he wasn't fool-proof, he was pretty darn close, not to mention his mere presence in the opposing quarterback's field of vision would be a deterrent to throw a pass for fear of what Thomas could do. It's a tall order to replace a player of Thomas' caliber, but he's not coming back and the Seahawks are moving forward with the young ones. They simply don't have a choice.
2) George Fant
Former UW Husky and Seahawks rookie Will Dissly moved into the starting tight end role not only because he can catch Russell Wilson's passes, but he can also block. When Dissly tore his patellar tendon Sunday in Glendale, the Seahawks lost a talented tight end and a big part of their run game.
Luckily the Seahawks have a former college tight end that can take up a lot of space and knows a little something about blocking: offensive lineman George Fant, who actually played tight end in college at Western Kentucky.
Knowing Fant is multitalented and familiar with the tight end position, look for him to occupy one of the ends on double tight end seats and help either pass block against a vicious defensive line for the Rams or run block against a vicious defensive line for the Rams. Fant will only help fortify the offensive line while giving the Seahawks more options in the running and passing game.
3) Austin Calitro
Mychal Kendricks was suspended indefinitely by the NFL this week for insider trading. The Seahawks managed to get a few games out of Kendricks, who won a Super Bowl last year with the Eagles, while KJ Wright recovers from knee surgery. Moving forward, Kendricks is no longer an option. That's too bad from a personnel standpoint because Kendricks is a pretty good player.
So in steps second-year linebacker Austin Calitro. He's a middle linebacker but has moved to the weak side in place of Wright and has slowly adjusted. Sunday he'll be put to the test against a Rams offense with so many different moving parts.
For Calitro, it will be a difficult test but one Norton believes Calitro is equipped to handle.
"He's really stepped up and we're very happy with his development. He's only getting better," Norton said this week. "He's a young player getting better being around Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and Barkevious Mingo. There're so many different parts of this game that you have to develop and Calitro has done excellent. He stepped in and hasn't been much of a drop off and we don't expect anything different at this point."
4) The Running Backs
The Seahawks had back-to-back 100 yard days from their running backs in wins over the Cowboys and the Cardinals. That's a huge achievement for an offense that did not produce a 100-yard rushing performance from a running back since Thomas Rawls ran for 106 against the Panthers in December 2016.
Chris Carson ran for over 100 against the Cowboys and carried the ball 32 time. That was rough on his body and Carson missed last week with a sore hip, opening the door for Mike Davis to run for 101 yards against the Cardinals.
Along with Mike Davis' big day, rookie Rashaad Penny ran the football for 49 yards. This week all three should be healthy and they could all be used against a Rams defensive front they will look to wear down.
Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer spoke this week on the luxury he has with Mike Davis being a hard-nosed runner that can play as much as they need him.
"He's always performed when given the opportunity," Schottenheimers said. "We were not blown away, not surprised, we were happy for him because he's put in a lot of time, effort, and hard work. For it to pay off, for him to get the two rushing touchdowns, over 100 yards two weeks in a row, but to be able to do it with different guys? That's what's cool."
100 yards for three weeks in a row? It will certainly be hard to pull off against a Rams defense that is 5th in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 86 yards per game.
KOMO Sports will have Sunday's game covered. We'll have reports from CenturyLink Field at 5,6 and 11 p.m.