by Jessica Ridpath & Julian Rogers
Oregon Sports News football writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week two matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams.
When: 1:05 p.m. PT Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif.
Rogers: Russell Wilson’s ankle health is the kind of news that makes a come-from-behind, nail-biter win seem inconsequential. Wilson’s so-far mysterious injury may / may not prevent him from playing. Details are and will remain sketchy until game time, but right now, it appears Wilson’s injury, initially shrugged off, but then described as “significant,” later described as “nothing very serious,” will not prevent him from playing Sunday. That’s good. A bum ankle could a have a ripple effect on not only Sunday’s game, but the Seahawks’ season and roster.
As of Wednesday, the only roster move the Seahawks made was to bring their other preseason quarterback, Jake Heaps, back into the fold on the practice squad. They’re rolling the dice with Wilson. As for a possible return of Tarvaris Jackson, it does not appear imminent and certainly won’t happen in time for this Sunday’s game.
So we are looking at a compromised Wilson in LA. We saw how that worked out in the latter stages of week one (post Suh stomp). The other factors: how easily could Wilson be reinjured? How long will his injury hamper his play?
Is it panic time? I think not. The Seahawks have a recent history of starting slow. They stumbled out of the 2015 gate with a 2–4 record and still were a team that advanced in the playoffs. It’s all about how you play in November/December. And right now, there’s no reason to think Wilson won’t have a healthy ankle in those crucial months.
Jess, last week you wrote that your biggest concern was Wilson’s health. You weren’t alone. We are now in a world where the Achilles heel of the Seahawks (backup quarterback) has already become an in-season factor. How should the Seahawks adjust to keep their playoff plans alive?
Ridpath: You (and others) had me convinced Seattle would try to sign a veteran quarterback this week. But Wilson is insisting he will play on Sunday.
Honestly, if I were Pete Carroll, I would give Wilson a week of rest — even if my only plan B were to give Trevone Boykin a shot against the Rams. Here are two reasons why:
- If the Rams’ dismal first outing is any indication of the strength of their offense (186 yards, with only 10 first downs), Seattle’s defense will have a field day on Sunday. Outside of Earl Thomas (who I may have called “Sir Wiffs A Lot” during the game), the defense looked fairly strong in game 1.
- Why risk an entire season on an early game against a mediocre (at best) opponent? As you pointed out, November/December is where the action is. Keeping Wilson healthy for the remaining 14 games seems infinitely more important than winning in week 2.
Even if Wilson weren’t hurt, I think Seattle would have to be focused on major adjustments on offense. I feel like a broken record at this point, but the offensive line has got to find a way to buy their quarterback (whomever that may be) more time. What we saw on Sunday (long before Wilson’s ankle became an issue) was a “short, chippy approach to the passing came.” That won’t work against defenses that are tougher than the Miami Dolphins’ … regardless of who the signal caller is.
Julian, what do you make of the Rams’ rebuilt offense, whose hopes appear to rest squarely on the shoulders of running back Todd Gurley?
Rogers: Based on the Rams’ ugly loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, Gurley is the entirety of their offense. They had nothing working: zero points, 185 total net yards and a third-down efficiency of 3/15. Case Keenum at quarterback is less imposing than a one-legged Russell Wilson.
You’re not wrong about Earl Thomas having an off game. It’s not a trend, yet. But a sudden unexpected liability in the LOB would put extra stress on the already sputtering Seahawks offense.
There is good news. The Seahawks’ defensive front proved stout, accounting for all five of the Seahawks’ sacks. Curtis Marsh may have become a cult hero based on his special teams ferocity. And the rest of the secondary had excellent games. Like, the best game.DeShawn Shead graded out as Pro Football Focus’s highest rated corner from week one. Sherman was on lockdown duty, allowing only two yards on one catch.
Also as expected, the Seahawks’ offensive line had its problems. They were not able to generate much push in the run game (3.42 YPC for three running backs; a meager 96 rushing yards among them) and gave up three sacks, including the play on which Wilson got hurt.
I bring this up because the strength of the Los Angeles Rams is Aaron Donald and the defensive line. At least it used to be. The 49ers made them look bad, which will give the Seahawks many new insights. Yes, the Seahawks are favored, but the Rams have won three of the last four meetings with the Seahawks. And that was when Wilson had two working legs. They, more than any other NFC West opponent, have the Seahawks’ number. Jess, can the new-look Seahawks (run a lot, keep Wilson in the pocket) work in Los Angeles?
Ridpath: It depends on which version of the Rams defense shows up. On one hand, Los Angeles gave up 150 yards on the ground last week. On the other hand, they came to life in the second half, stopping the 49ers on four consecutive third downs. Playing at home against division rivals after a bitter defeat, I expect LA’s defense will deliver the better version of themselves this Sunday.
At least that’s the assumption Darrell Bevell should make as he attempts to bring Seattle’s running game back to its former glory (or at least within spitting distance.)Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls each posted a couple of clutch runs last Sunday … but neither put together a consistent performance, failing to deliver on the usual Seattle standard: just 3.5 yards per rush — worse than all but two games in 2015.
With Wilson questionable and the Seahawks’ rushing attack still developing, I’m giving the edge to the Rams defense. And I might even be skeptical about Seattle’s chances for victory if not for one thing. No matter what shape their offense takes come Sunday, they’ll be facing off against an offense that has yet to show any signs of life this season. The timing couldn’t be better.
Julian, am I overlooking something? Or is facing the Rams when Wilson is injured an early-season gift for the Seahawks?
Rogers: No time is a good time to have your starting quarterback injured. But you may have a point. The Rams could not look more beatable right now. And the Seahawks have 14 remaining games to make up any potential ground lost in the standings should they return from Tinsel Town as losers.
But you were talking about the Rams’ lifeless offense. It wasn’t exactly scintillating last year (ranked 32nd) and appears, after one game, to have taken a major step back. I didn’t think that was possible. This does bode well for the visiting blue birds.
The missing dynamic for the Rams’ offense was the inability to threaten with any viable downfield passing. Much of the blame has been placed on Keenum, but he’s not solely at fault. The Rams’ offensive line was repeatedly overmatched by the 49ers’ defensive front, making early season stars out of a couple of ex-Oregon Ducks linemen,Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. The Rams receivers had difficulty getting open and the offensive scheme had no answers.
The 49ers may be better (at least on defense) than we knew, but can the Rams expect to get well against the Seahawks? If they do, it will be a strong indicator that the Seahawks’ defense isn’t up to usual standards. If the Seahawks throttle the Rams, well, that’s what everyone is expecting.
Jess, who’s going to win the Seahawks’ first trip back to Los Angeles since 1994?
Ridpath: I’m expecting a low-scoring game, but I’m confident Seattle will come home victorious. The question is, will Wilson come home healthy? Seahawks fans better hope so, or the blue birds’ season will look a whole lot different. Prediction: Seattle 17, Los Angeles 7.
Rogers: I echo your opinion that it will be a low-scoring game. But I give the Rams more historical credit than I bet you do. They have a knack for playing the Seahawks tough and if the Dolphins can do it, so can the 2016 Rams. Prediction: Seattle 16, Los Angeles 13.
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.
What he got right: The game winner. I’m 1–0 on the season. Despite the ugly win, the Seahawks are well on their way to fulfilling my other prediction of a faster start to the 2016 season, compared to last year. I praised the chemistry between Doug Baldwin and Wilson, which was the most promising offensive factor for the Seahawks against the Dolphins.
What he got wrong: I had the tenor of the game way off. I thought it would feature a bit more scoring. My prediction of this being the year of Tyler Lockett is thus far a fizzle.
What she got right: The game winner. But then again, so did everyone with half a football brain. I was all too right about Ndamukong Suh’s ability to bring the pain. I sure wish I’d gotten that one wrong. I also predicted that the Rams receivers wouldn’t put on a great show. Between dropped passes and broken routes, they were decidedly mediocre.
What she got wrong: I said Seattle would “win handily.” Instead, they delivered another come-from-behind victory that left 12s reaching for their blood pressure medication. I expected former Seahawk Byron Maxwell would play with “fire in his belly.” Wrong. Maxwell posted just four tackles, with no sacks, assists, or interceptions.