Most weeks the GIF Horse will take a bit of a look back to review what happened in the last game as well as a look ahead at the upcoming matchup. Obviously that’s going to be a little hard with the first game of the season, so instead we’ll dive right in an break down the matchup between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
The Legion of
Scotty Payne hit this at length yesterday, but the Seattle team Denver will open with looks a lot different than even last year’s team. No Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas means the Legion of Boom is no more. Instead it looks like Dontae Johnson or Tre Flowers will start at the right cornerback spot with Shaquill Griffin manning Sherman’s old spot on the left corner.
The San Francisco 49ers were among the 10 worst defenses against the pass by FootballOutsiders’ efficiency statistics. They didn’t expect Johnson to become the starter at right corner but with Byron Maxwell placed on injured reserve they’re in dire straights there.
Griffin had a promising rookie season, so it would make sense for Musgrave and Keenum to go after Johnson early and often. Behind the corners will be a 2017 4th rounder Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald, who is a strong coverage player but weaker in the run game.
The Front 7: Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner and?
Say what you will about Clark’s character, but there is little doubt that Clark is one of the Seahawks’ win conditions in their tilt against the Broncos. He’s a promising pass rusher who has seen his snap count rise every season with little dropoff as teams have gathered more tape on him.
There is little doubt that Musgrave and the Broncos will need to provide help to Bolles if they hope to keep Keenum clean.
One thing that should concern Bronco fans is the GIF above. Clark has a good speed rush, but he often uses that threat outside to crash inside to get to the quarterback even faster. Bolles was famously grab happy as a rookie and has shown some signs of that kind of play again in the preseason. Even if Clark doesn’t get home, Bronco fans need to hold their breath and hope Denver’s second year tackle can have a clean game.
Beyond Clark though, the Seahawks defensive line is littered with questions.
Although Jordan wasn’t allowed to participate this preseason while on the PUP List, Carroll said his rehab has “been like practice for him.”
“He’s close, we’ll see,” Carroll concluded. “I’m not going to be opposed to playing him this weekend.”
It’s likely that even if Jordan plays, he won’t be quite where he was at the end of last season when he had a sack in each of the Seahawks last 3 games. If he can’t go, it’s likely that Branden Jackson and 3rd round rookie Rasheem Green will be heavily featured in his spot. Even if he does play, they’ll likely rotate in. Both are built closer to former Seahawk Red Bryant, who famously played a 5 technique role for Pete Carroll in the early 2010’s. What that means is neither offers the kind of pass rush threat that Jordan can.
The big name to watch inside is nose tackle Jarran Reed.
Shaquem Griffin was the feel good story leading up to this year’s NFL draft, but he’s also likely to start Sunday with K.J Wright still recovering from knee surgery. Barkevious Mingo looks like the other name to watch as he’ll fill the old Bruce Irvin role and attempt to lift the Seattle pass rush. Both players could be a nuisance, but the real threat at the second level of the defense is easily Bobby Wagner.
The Russell Wilson Show
Let there be no doubt, if the Seahawks are going to find a way to beat Denver this weekend, their quarterback is going to need to make some plays. He’s shown an ability to do just that over the years with the kind of eclectic style that reminds some of Fran Tarkenton tape.
In and of itself, Wilson’s aptitude for making something out of broken plays is a bit concerning. What raises the threat level a bit more is the Broncos cornerback depth chart after Chris Harris and Bradley Roby. Adam Jones or Tramaine Brock are likely to be key contributors Sunday. One was signed this month while the other has done little to inspire confidence so far.
What should come as a bit of a relief to those fears is the state of the Seahawks receiving corps, as well as the rest of the supporting cast around Wilson. The pass catching group got significantly weaker over the offseason when Paul Richardson elected to sign with Washington for 5 years and $40 million and Jimmy Graham wasn’t resigned. While both were expensive, their absence means Seattle is counting on Tyler Lockett, 3rd-year-pro Nick Vannett and ex-Bronco Brandon Marshall to fill the void.
Then there’s Doug Baldwin, who is easily the best receiver on the roster but also playing hurt.
“I haven’t felt 100% since I was born,” Baldwin said. “I’m probably about 80-85% right now. The truth of the matter is that it won’t be 100% [for 2018]. It’s something I’ve got to deal with the rest of the season.”
With the Broncos pass rush a notable threat, it’s likely the Seahawks attempt a conservative gameplan. The starting offensive line is the best it’s been in recent history, but with German Ifedi starting at right tackle the potential is there for Bradley Chubb to get off to a hot start to his rookie season.
Across from him is the recently resigned Duane Brown, who John Schneider traded two day 2 draft picks for. Brown made the Pro Bowl last year, which speaks volumes about the NFL’s annual vacation designation. Don’t be surprised if Von Miller has a monster day.
They’ve got a Schott.
Coordinating the Seahawk offense is Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty and he who has not coordinated an offense that ranked in the top third of the league to date. Pete Carroll sang his praises for the work he did with the Rex Ryan era Jets running game, which was decent from at the end of the 2000’s.
More recently, Schottenheimer coordinated the 2015 Georgia offense.
remember when Brian Schottenheimer coordinated the offense for a Georgia team that finished 9th in the SEC in scoring offense despite having Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Keith Marshall, and 2 drafted WRs and 2 drafted OL? https://t.co/XLSRIa7GNf— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) May 30, 2018
If nothing else, Schottenheimer is proof that playing “the game” and having the right last name can ensure long career in the NFL. That should give hope to Deuce Gruden.
This first game will be a good test for the Broncos right out of the gate. I’m a big believer that good teams beat bad teams badly and this rebuilding Seattle team looks as if they’ll contend for the first pick in the 2019 NFL draft.