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What To Watch: Seattle

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  • What To Watch: Seattle

    What to Watch: Seattle
    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    What to Watch: Seattle

    1. Front Seven Confrontation

    The Rams have made no bones about wanting to beef up their offensive line so that they can better protect quarterback Marc Bulger and open holes for running back Steven Jackson.

    To that end, the team revamped the line in the offseason by plugging in rookie Jason Smith at right tackle and free agent Jason Brown at center. That line’s first test comes Sunday in the form of one of the most formidable front sevens (on paper, at least) in the league.

    Seattle boasts a front seven that includes ends Patrick Kerney and Cory Redding and a linebacker crew with serious star power in Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry.

    “They are very fast,” Brown said. “They move around very well. They remind me of some the lighter, shiftier guys I would see in Indianapolis. They do a great job of moving around and rushing the passer.”

    The challenge provided by that front seven plus what is likely to be another one will make the challenge of keeping Jackson involved in the offense difficult. But there’s no doubt he will be the bell cow for this offense.

    Seattle’s defense hasn’t changed a ton under new coach Jim Mora Jr. but the team still plays a lot of Tampa 2 zone schemes that can create running opportunities.

    And if Jackson can get it going early and the Rams can protect Bulger on passing opportunities, the Rams can control the clock.

    “He is a tremendous talent,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said of Jackson. “I am looking forward to seeing him in real, live action. Obviously, we didn’t play him much in preseason because we wanted to get him to the first game, but what he has done in practice and the few snaps he had in preseason, I am looking forward to seeing him work.”

    2. A Real Hasselbeck

    Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has long been a thorn in the side of the Rams with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games. But Hasselbeck is coming off an injury-plagued season that has some wondering if he can still get it done at his formerly high level.
    Even before injuries took over in 2008, Hasselbeck struggled some. But Hasselbeck’s ability to get out of the pocket and make plays still makes him dangerous. And he posted a quarterback rating of over 100 in the preseason.

    “I think Matt is one of the quality quarterbacks in this league,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He knows where to go with the football. He knows how to manage the game. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for him. When he’s playing, he’s one of those guys you have to defend. That’s a confident football team and it starts with the quarterback.”

    Helping Hasselbeck is the offseason acquisition of perhaps the best receiver the Seahawks have had in Hasselbeck’s tenure as a starter, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

    Houshmandzadeh is a steady, reliable target that has to ability to slice up defenses over the middle and even get deep occasionally. The assignment of covering him will likely fall to Ron Bartell but all corners, including Jonathan Wade who is making his third career start will need to be on their game.

    “He’s been tough for a number of years,” Wade said. “To go up against a veteran of that caliber, they know where to go, when to go and how to go and how to beat young, inexperienced corners. So you have to make sure you are fully prepared mentally and physically going into a battle like this.”

    3. On the Receiving End

    While they may not have anyone with the experience of Houshmandzadeh, the Rams believe their young stable of four wide receivers has the potential to be extremely effective this season.

    Facing a Seattle secondary that finished last in the league in pass defense in 2008 and knowing that the Seahawks will be keying on Jackson should create ample opportunities for Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson and Derek Stanley to make some plays.

    “The only way to get experience is if you play,” Burton said. “They are definitely trying to see what we can do. We just have to step up to the challenge, go out, make plays, make blocks and do what is asked of us.”

    The Rams have no concerns about carrying just four wideouts on the roster and they are high on the possibilities the young legs can provide. Don’t expect the Rams to spread it out much in terms of four receiver sets and look for the tight ends and running backs to play a prominent role in the offense as well.

    “We’re OK,” Spagnuolo said. “I know you look at it and see four wideouts, well obviously we are going to activate the four wideouts and where we are lucky and fortunate is we have some versatile tight ends like Randy (McMichael) and Danny Fells.”

    4. Gone in a Snap

    For those aforementioned receivers to be effective, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger will have to be his usual, accurate self.

    Coming off a broken right pinkie finger, Bulger just began taking snaps on Wednesday of this week but has had no ill effects from it and has been throwing the ball with his normal accuracy and velocity.

    Despite all the missed time, the Rams believe Bulger is prepared to play against the Seahawks.

    “He’s taken all the reps this week and I think that is most important,” Shurmur said. “He kept himself in shape. Mentally, he was right there with us, even the time he missed. He is a veteran guy so he knows how to get himself ready.”

    It will be critically important for Bulger and Brown to have solid exchanges and to keep Bulger from re-injuring his pinkie.

    5. The Qwest to Hear

    Few venues in the league present as much of a challenge as Seattle’s Qwest Field in terms of homefield advantage. It’s loud almost from start to finish and the Seahawks are 36-13 at Qwest Field.

    “It’s loud,” Brown said. “Of course, that’s what most people say. It’s always loud. The thing is you have to be poised, under control. You have to anticipate that it’s going to be loud.”

    The Seahawks even have a sign that tracks the number of false start and pre-snap penalties against opponents because their fans have helped cause so many of them.

    Pre-snap penalties are something that will quickly draw the ire of Spagnuolo and the Rams first unit was improved in that area in the preseason. Still, with a rookie starting at right tackle; it’s important for the Rams offense to communicate as best it can.

    A lot of that burden falls on Brown, who is charged with the task of making the line calls and doing all he can to lead the line and particularly the rookie.

    “First thing I can do is be the leader he deserves, lead this offensive line and make sure I make all of my calls direct, precise and to the point,” Brown said. “It will give him a better sense of what he is supposed to be doing every play.”

  • #2
    Re: What To Watch: Seattle

    “It will give him a better sense of what he is supposed to be doing every play.”
    Him they mean Barron right? Or is this in reference to the rookie.


    • #3
      Re: What To Watch: Seattle

      I believe the reference is to Smith.