5 Burning Questions: What to Watch as Seahawks, Patriots Clash in Prime Time
Coming off a spectacular Week 1 road win in Atlanta, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will return home for a prime time contest against Cam Newton and the Patriots, who also opened the season with a victory.
As I will do each and every game this season, let's tackle five key questions heading into Seattle's home opener at CenturyLink Field.
1. After putting on a clinic as master chef, will Seattle let Russell Wilson cook again? Or will Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde eat instead?
Taking advantage of ideal matchups against a young, unproven Falcons secondary last weekend, Wilson dropped back to throw on 12 of the Seahawks first 15 plays, tossing two touchdown passes to Carson in the process. The aggressiveness continued in the second half as Seattle pulled away thanks to a fourth down touchdown reception by DK Metcalf and a seven-yard score from Wilson to Greg Olsen. While fans would love to see the star quarterback throw that much again, however, the Patriots are a different animal in the secondary with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty at the corner spots and Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips at safety. It will be interesting to see what Seattle does from a strategy perspective against a well-coached defense and it wouldn't be surprising to see Carson and Hyde featured far more prominently.
2. Which secondary X-factor will step up behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf?
Speaking of Gilmore, he's pretty damn good. The former South Carolina standout led the NFL with six interceptions last season and produced 20 passes defensed, winning Defensive Player of the Year honors and earning First-Team All-Pro distinction for a second straight season. Known for his prowess in press coverage, his presence will make life much tougher for Lockett and Metcalf to get open when he's across from them, and the rest of New England's secondary is solid as well. This feels like a game where tight ends such as Olsen, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister will need to contribute more in the receiving game against a team that likes to run man coverage, especially considering the Patriots lack of experience at linebacker without D'onta Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Phillip Dorsett is also worth watching if he's able to play against his former team, as he adds another speedy threat for the opponent to worry about.
3. How much does the presence of Jamal Adams impact New England's run game?
Having played against Cam Newton a bunch in the past, the Seahawks know how unique of an offensive weapon he is and the challenges presented by his running ability at 250 pounds. After carrying the ball 16 times (17 if you count a kneel down) against the Dolphins in Week 1, he's clearly going to be featured in the Patriots run game. But from a personnel standpoint, though there are legitimate concerns about the team's interior defensive line depth, Seattle should be well-equipped to handle him with Bobby Wagner and Adams playing in the box. Both players are physical talents with great instincts and won't be fooled by whatever wrinkles New England tries to use with designed quarterback runs and the option game. As long as the line doesn't get dominated up front, this should be a matchup that favors the 'Hawks.
4. Will Marquise Blair rise to the occasion against one of the NFL's best slot receivers?
Blair made one of Seattle's biggest plays in Week 1 forcing a fumble on a fake punt, but his first extensive action working as a nickel cornerback was underwhelming. He allowed six completions on seven targets for 89 yards per Pro Football Reference and didn't find much success when brought as a blitzer twice. After struggling a bit in Atlanta, he will now face a premier slot receiver in Julian Edelman, who is coming off the third 1,000-yard season of his career and remains the Patriots top target in his 11th season. He's not the athlete he once was, but he's a crafty veteran with route running savvy who knows how to get open and his quickness could cause problems for Seattle's second-year defender.
5. Which team will find a way to muster up a pass rush?
The Seahawks pass rushing woes have been well-documented and they only produced two sacks against the Falcons in Week 1. But the Patriots didn't light it up pressuring Ryan Fitzpatrick either, generating a single sack and five quarterback hits in the season opener. Both teams lack star power along their defensive lines and will be relying on a rush by committee this year, including using the blitz to supplement. This will be especially true for the Seahawks with Adams, who excels coming off the edge for a safety. This game could ultimately come down to which team is able to manufacture the most pressure, as Wilson and Newton are both accurate passers who will do a ton of damage with clean pockets to work with.