Welcome to the new format of our game preview content for the 2020 season. Each week, I’ll pose five questions that are essentially keys to the game and topics that could end up telling the story for each of the Seahawks matchups.
As a payoff, I’ll go back and review/answer each question on Monday to recap what transpired on Sunday. With that, let’s dive into the hot topics ahead of Seattle’s Week 1 road matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Will Jamal Adams leave his mark on the game?
The time has finally come for the Seahawks to deploy their new weapon on defense. Adams had a tremendous camp and is one of the most versatile defensive players in the entire NFL. He transcends the label “box safety” and is arguably the team’s top pass rusher. But how will Seattle use him? The Seahawks aren’t known for being a blitz-heavy defense, but that will have to change, at least to some degree now that they’ve got Adams.
It will also be interesting to see the ripple effect of Adams’ presence in the middle of the Seahawks defense. Bobby Wagner should benefit from the attention Adams will command.
This is the second-straight season that Seattle has had a highly-anticipated debut in Week 1. It was Clowney last year. Now it’s Adam’s turn to officially introduce himself to the 12s.
2. How much production will the Seahawks get from their tight ends?
Pete Carroll confirmed on Friday that Will Dissly (Achilles) is 100% and all systems go. This is Dissly’s second remarkable comeback in as many years, and he has a legit shot at winning the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award in 2020. Everyone is crossing their fingers that this is the year Dissly can stay healthy and continue his trajectory of becoming one of the better tight ends in football.
But Dissly has company atop the depth chart following the offseason addition of Greg Olsen. Both tight ends figure to play a major role in Seattle’s offense, and they should commonly see the field at the same time. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how the Seahawks deploy and rotate their two-headed monster at tight end. Here’s my guess on their combined stat line: 8 catches for 74 yards and one touchdown.
3. How will Seattle split up touches at running back?
Carroll indicated that the Seahawks might utilize a “hot hand” approach when it comes to splitting carries between Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson.
"Sometimes you go with who's hot,” Carroll said Friday. “They're going to both play. We'll see what happens when they get out there. If it looks like somebody's got something going on that day, we'll stick with it."
Most of that is likely coach speak. Carroll said something similar to last year, and Carson ended up being a true workhorse in Seattle’s offense. He remains the go-to guy for the Seahawks. However, I do think he will be limited more than he was in 2019. Seattle needs to keep him healthy for the entire season, and Hyde’s presence should allow the Seahawks to keep Carson below 20 carries a game. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas might also see some work on third downs.
Fantasy owners fear not, Carson will still be the guy in the red zone and in crunch time.
4. Will the pass rush make Matt Ryan uncomfortable?
No need to spend too much time on this one. We’ve spent months wondering whether or not the Seahawks did enough to improve a pass rush that generated just 28 sacks in 2019. Getting production from Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Jarran Reed and Co. will be vital if Seattle has any hope of slowing down the Falcons high-powered offense.
Also, be sure to keep an eye on L.J. Collier, who should start at 5-tech.
5. How will Marquise Blair handle his first game as a nickel corner?
Blair received DK Metcalf-levels of hype during training camp. Coaches and players alike gushed about Blair’s transition from safety to nickel corner. Quandre Diggs said that Blair looked like he’s done it before. K.J. Wright shared that Blair’s emergence will be the primary reason why the Seahawks operate more out of sub packages than they did in 2019. Ken Norton thinks Blair will excel in man-to-man coverage and as a blitzer.
But we’re yet to see how he fares in game action. Blair’s size, athleticism and physicality are the traits that made him a second-round pick back in 2019. How those traits translate to the nickel spot will be one of the top undercurrents of the defense this season.