Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 22, 2018 at 1:34 am.


–RB J.D. McKissic: Out since Week 1 with a Jones fracture in his foot, McKissic returned to practice this week, adding extra depth to an already-loaded backfield. The Seahawks will have three weeks to activate him or he will stay on the injured reserve list for the remainder of the season.

–WR Doug Baldwin: Stating he’s now “pain free” after battling multiple knee injuries throughout the season, Baldwin caught a season-high seven passes and scored his first touchdown in last Thursday’s win over the Packers. Looking far more spry than even a few weeks ago, the Seahawks aerial attack should receive a major boost with him close to 100 percent.

–DE Rasheem Green: It’s been a relatively quiet rookie season for Green, but the third-round pick out of USC finally made an impact in the fourth quarter against Green Bay. With the Packers leading 21-20 and in the red zone, Green snuffed out a scramble attempt by Aaron Rodgers and sacked him on third down, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal and opening the door for the Seahawks to win the game.

–LB Mychal Kendricks: Suspended since Week 5, the NFL allowed Kendricks to return to practice this week and he’ll be working diligently to get reacclimated with the team. However, the veteran linebacker won’t be eligible to play in a game until Week 14 against the Vikings.

–LB Austin Calitro: Unexpectedly, Calitro played the bulk of the snaps at weak-side linebacker replacing injured starter K.J. Wright, finishing with five tackles and 0.5 sacks. With Wright unlikely to make it back for this week’s game, he could be in line for extended playing time once again.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: DE Quinton Jefferson. The Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers five times last Thursday, and though Jefferson didn’t record a single one of them and only finished with one tackle for loss, he was instrumental to the team’s success disrupting the pocket and played one of his finest games as a pro. The third-year defensive lineman consistently forced Rodgers to step up or move the pocket, creating opportunities for teammates to bring him to the turf. Taking advantage of his size and power, he drove Packers guard Byron Bell deep into the backfield multiple times, leading to eventual sacks by linebacker Austin Calitro and defensive end Rasheem Green.

GAME PLAN: Unlike the past few weeks, the Seahawks will face a defense capable of holding serve at the line of scrimmage and slowing down their vaunted rushing attack. For the season, the Panthers have given up only 98.5 rushing yards per game, ranked eighth in the NFL. They’ve also held their opponents under 100 rushing yards in six of their 10 games, proving to be more consistent than Seattle’s recent opponents. This could be the first game in some time where Seattle will have to win the game riding the arm of Russell Wilson, as Carolina hasn’t been quite as stingy defending the pass, allowing opponents to average 254 passing yards per game, 21st in the league. The Panthers have also had trouble consistently getting to the quarterback aside from Mario Addison, which should provide Wilson time to scan the field and make plays as he did during the second half against the Packers.

With Cam Newton orchestrating the offense and running back Christian McCaffrey keeping defensive coordinators up at night with his extraordinary versatility, the Panthers offense functions similar to the Seahawks. They want to establish the run while mixing in read-option looks to get Newton involved as a rusher and take shots downfield in the passing game to a group of receivers headlined by rookie D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Devin Funchess. For Seattle to win this game, they’ll need to win on first and second down and force Carolina to beat them with the passing game in third-and-long situations. For the year, the Panthers have converted on only 19 percent of third downs where they needed seven or more yards, the fourth-worst mark in the league. Eliminating the run game and forcing the Panthers off schedule will be a monumental difference maker in this contest.

–Seahawks RT Germain Ifedi vs. Panthers DE Mario Addison. Cutting down on penalties and steadily improving in pass protection, Ifedi has made major strides in his third NFL season. He’s held up well against quality pass rushers most of the season, but Addison will be a great test for him due to his quickness off the edge. The 31-year-old defensive end has been a bit of a late bloomer, busting out with 9.5 sacks in 2016 and then posting a career-high 11.0 sacks last year. So far through 10 games in 2018, Addison leads the Panthers with 7.5 sacks and ranks second on the team with 10 tackles for loss. Keeping him out of the backfield and protecting Wilson will be key playing in a hostile road environment with a playoff atmosphere.

–Seahawks LBs Austin Calitro and Barkevious Mingo vs. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey. Equally as impressive as a receiver as he is out of the backfield running the football, McCaffrey has quickly become one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapons. Aside from Giants rookie Saquan Barkley, the former Stanford star is the only NFL player currently with over 600 rushing yards and 60 receptions. Filling in for K.J. Wright for a second straight week, Calitro and Mingo will need to play disciplined football maintaining run fits and handling coverage assignments when McCaffrey runs routes out of the backfield. Calitro played well against the Packers, but he did surrender a long touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Aaron Jones in the first half and the Panthers will want to exploit that matchup.