Fighting Seattle at Seattle this week. Healthier in some ways, but still inconsistent.
It's tough to say what to do here. Carolina was gashed against the run last week, but the Seahawks aren't the Browns and there's no Peyton Hillis here. Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch are former Cal teammates, curious given the Pete Carroll connection to USC; Lynch was sent from Buffao four games into the year and watched his YPC drop from 4.4 to 3.1. Forsett, a 5'8 change of pace back, has a respectable 4.2; both backs, along with QB Matt Hasselbeck, have 2 TDs rushing apiece. The trade for Lynch isn't paying off so far, and Leon Washington has barely played (2 games of the 7 since the bye).
Despite putting a 6th overall pick into LT Russell Okung, having experienced right side players Chris Spencer, Stacy Andrews, and Sean Locklear (C to RT, in order), they sit at 32nd rushing the football. They get stuffed 28% of the time, again last in the league. They're 21st in the league for sacks given up, with 26. Carolina statistically ranks worst against the run on the outside, but the Seahawks hardly run outside at all, and only average 1.9 yards per carry on left outside runs.
Hasselbeck had made a name for himself as a deep ball QB with the efficiency of a WCO guy, but has been tasked mostly with dumpoffs. Here, he'll find solace in a Panthers zone defense that allows dumps all day, and occasionally overload blitzes right into short passes that become long gains. Hasselbeck completes 59% of his passes, and has a 10/9 TD/INT ratio.
Former USC star and Lions bust Mike Williams (52/654/1 TD) has finally emerged, but didn't play last week and may not this week. His size creates a mismatch, and he is relying on old tricks to become useful again, having normally found it unable to get past press coverage without speed. Deon Butler is the next receiver, at a more paltry 27/274/3 TD. Slot Brandon Stokely has 22/261, and Golden Tate would assume his role if Williams doesn't play - the Notre Dame rookie has 12 receptions for 172. He and Ben Obomanu (leads the team with 4 TDs and has 19.5 yards/catch as a deep ball guy) get used situationally only.
TE John Carlson has 26/257/1, Forsett as a dumpoff guy has 25/209. Either are more apt threats than the 3rd/4th WRs, as the ball comes out fast and short to secondary targets. Seattle is efficient enough - 17th in pass yards - but it scores them only rarely, finishing at 27th in PPG with 19.0. It's a very deliberate offense, and it won't shock you, beat you down, or surprise you.
Carolina matches well, with a strong pass defense, and their suspect run defense may entice Seattle to run but it won't be a significant game changer for them to do so. Carolina is among the tops in the league in covering primary WR (5th against the #1, 1st against the #2) but last against the TE, so watch Carlson.
Seattle's defense is high on stars in the second level, with Lofa Tatupu in the middle and Wake Forest alum/former top 10 pick Aaron Curry playing strongside; FS Earl Thomas and WLB David Hawthorne are the leaing tacklers. DE Chris Clemins has 7.5 sacks. Brandon Mebane and journeyman Junior Siavii are adequate DTs but can be moved.
Lawyer Milloy is still somehow in the league, and from SS, is second on the team in sacks with 4. Carolina was flustered twice last week against the Browns with weakside blitzing of a safety, each causing sacks. Jimmy Clausen simply hasn't read through that one well enough, and the OL doesn't pick it up well. So, clearly, Seattle will want to bring Milloy in weakside B gap on a slight delay, and Clausen must notice the single high safety, that he needs to get the ball out fast, and if that's successful, it's still caused the QB to not look deep on a potentially lucrative deep play. Teams tend not to do that with 3+ WR, so that's a fix - but then you're losing a contain blocker.
Seattle's awful defense, led by DC Casey Bradley, is 30th in yards with 300/game, gives up 25 ppg for 23rd, is 30th against the pass and 22nd agaisnt the run. It's a base 4-3, with typical cover 3 disguise looks, not unlike what Carolina ran from 2003-2008 under Mike Trgovac and what John Fox himself ran with the Giants. It's the same defense that George Seifert built in San Francisco, and couldn't build in Carolina.
Seattle's solid at covering the #1 receiver with Marcus Trufant (17th) but terrible against the others (2nd WR, 27th; 3rd WR 29th). They're good (4th) covering the TE, but 31st against the RB; typical 3rd down targets Dante Rosario and Mike Goodson will be heading in divergent paths this week. Goodson was targeted 10 times last week anyway, catching 8 for 81, so it's not hard to see that they'll continue to check to Goodson plenty. Rosario leads the team in 3rd down catches and targets, but has trailed lately, and that should continue.
Leading tackler, Thomas, also leads with 5 INT from FS; four others have 1 apiece. Thomas sits in his single high safety look often, though occasionally they pull Jon Babineaux up to move Milloy into the box but keep two high safeties. Oregon rookie Walter Thurmond is most often the nickel.
The pursuit, with most of the players of note being non-DL, is solid. There's no reason Carolina can't stretch or sweep with the run, because their overall product on O is much better than the Seahawks' rush D, but the push should be quick hitters between the tackles, where the light second level defenders will be more easily overpowered than outrun. Jonathan Stewart was successful at this last week, Mike Goodson brilliant at it at times in the two weeks before that. The OL is hitting stride in run blocking, and that may be key to controlling what Milloy can do, what the blitzing can do, and what Clausen must put on his own back.