The Jacksonville Jaguars will be hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and to get us ready for the game we’ve got Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls here to answer some questions leading up to the Week 14 matchup.
1. Russell Wilson looks like he has been on fire. Why hasn't the rest of the offense elevated alongside him and how would you minimize his impact on the game if you were the Jaguars defensive coordinator?
I'm not sure exactly that the rest of the offense has not elevated alongside him. For a number of reasons, I suppose. The first being that this is Russell Wilson. This is the Russell Wilson that I'm used to, for the most part. The difference is that the tide went in, not that he walked out of the water. (Or walked on water, perhaps.)
The Seahawks don't have a running game (spoiler alert to your next question) because Chris Carson was the best option on this team and he broke his ankle in Week 4. Eddie Lacy was signed because of his college resume and 2013-2014 seasons, but he's unfortunately still the slow, plodding, non-dynamic runner he was for Green Bay for most of 2015-2016. He's fairly useless but he had been the best option for awhile. Thomas Rawls, I'm not sure he has mentally recovered from breaking his ankle in 2015. He lacks the vision and dynamic cutback ability that he displayed as a rookie, and that means he is forcing fewer missed tackles. And if you want to succeed behind this offensive line, like Marshawn Lynch did, you have to force missed tackles. That's a big reason why the running game has been so awful, but I'll save some more for question two.
I think Jimmy Graham has been excellent because he's the best red zone threat of 2017. He leads all receivers/tight ends in relevant red zone stats. Wilson also leads the NFL in red zone touchdowns because of it. So I think that despite his low YPC, Graham has elevated his game. Doug Baldwin is still very reliable play-to-play, but he might finish with a few less touchdowns this year because of the attention being given to Graham. Paul Richardson is having a career year at receiver and could get a surprisingly significant chunk of change as a free agent in 2018. Tyler Lockett just caught his first touchdown of the year and I think he's been a bit of a disappointment, though this is also what we are actually used to seeing from him, when he's not injured. I think people just expected more. The offensive line is much, much better since the acquisition of Duane Brown and the return of Luke Joeckel from knee surgery.
I would minimize his impact by having Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye do what they do best and force Wilson into coverage sacks and forced plays. Wilson is excellent on the run and has way more throws outside of the pocket than any other quarterback this year, and he could run on a defense for 50-80 crucial yards, but he's also able to kill defenses from within the pocket and when he has time to throw. He'll actually force himself into pressure half of the time, so have elite coverage on the receivers and force him into the arms of Calais Campbell.
2. Where the heck is your running game?
The run blocking is not good and the running backs were not physically capable of overcoming it. The hopeful answer to that problem is Mike Davis. A former 49ers back, Davis was the primary ballcarrier on Sunday against the Eagles and he had 64 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving for a total of 101 yards. He was also the recipient on the controversial lateral, which I think still represents a big picture positive that Davis has keen awareness and ball skills. He's the best thing Seattle's had going for them at running back since Carson went down and given his above-average play in the preseason, I think there's reason for hope that he can do as well as Carson would have. There's also speculation that Carson may return by the time the playoffs begin.
3. If you’re the Jaguars offensive coordinator, how are you attacking this Seahawks defense? Where are the weak points?
Byron Maxwell. No offense to Maxwell, not entirely, but he's the new guy and he was unemployed a few weeks ago. Against the Eagles, their most successful drive came on two long throws against Maxwell that went for a quick score. He also made some really nice tackles and I think was as good in coverage as you could expect but there are weaknesses there and I don't think you'll find those weaknesses against Bobby Wagner or Michael Bennett or Earl Thomas. Not even Shaquill Griffin or Justin Coleman, the other corners.
Seattle's worst spot in the secondary is how they do against No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, but they thrive in defending running backs in the passing game and are very good against tight ends. They're also a very good run defense with Sheldon Richardson and Jarran Reed both healthy, so the best spots to attack are with your receivers, specifically directed at Maxwell.
4. How much longer does this Seahawks defense have to be performing at an elite level? You guys shutting down the Eagles was a masterpiece.
That's a bit harder to decipher right now because we're getting our first look at a post-Sherman defense. It looks pretty good considering. I think the window of time that it last though has some to do with Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner, some to do with Pete Carroll, and some to do with John Schneider and the drafting. With the cases of Thomas and Wagner and the veterans on the defense, maybe it lasts another three or five years. With the case of Carroll and the system and culture he's instituted, maybe longer. With the recent draftees the team's best acquisitions on defense are Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, and Frank Clark. It's not quite as eye-popping as Sherman, Thomas, Wagner, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright. But it's hopeful, those guys are quite good. And in the most extreme cases, we've seen how the Baltimore Ravens have maintained a fairly steady level of good-to-great defense from their 2000 Super Bowl win to now. That could be on Schneider.
5. What happens on Sunday? I've got some people telling me it'll be a blowout by y'all and others saying it'll be tight all game. What do you think?
I don't think anyone's getting blown out in this game. I expect it to be like 7-3 at halftime (by anyone's lead) and then maybe some fourth quarter scoring to get to something like 21-20 or 23-19. I think this is a super tough game for the Seahawks and I could see them losing this one. I'll be a homer though and say that Russell Wilson gets it done, Seahawks 23, Jaguars 19.