Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 07, 2018 at 6:34 pm.

–QB Russell Wilson: 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan accused Wilson of throwing linebacker Fred Warner’s shoe. While Wilson admitted doing so, there wasn’t any malicious intent behind the “shoe gate” incident at CenturyLink, as he didn’t know who it belonged to and the Seahawks were trying to go no-huddle.

–RB Chris Carson: Though limited in Thursday’s practice after dislocating a finger against the 49ers, Carson should be ready to roll by Sunday and remain the starting running back. If he’s held back at all, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis would be in line for increased workloads in the backfield.

–RG D.J. Fluker: Leaving last week’s win over the 49ers in the second half with a Grade-1 hamstring strain, Fluker won’t play this week and could be sidelined longer. In his absence, second-year guard Jordan Simmons will earn his second start of the season against Minnesota.

–DT Shamar Stephen: Nursing a foot injury that has bothered him much of the season, Stephen finally sat out last week against the 49ers and all signs point to him returning after a one-week hiatus to face his former team.

–LB Mychal Kendricks: With his suspension officially over, the Seahawks plan to play him against the Vikings, though head coach Pete Carroll remained non-committal on if the team expects him to play the whole game. Austin Calitro could still see some snaps at weak-side linebacker with this being Kendricks’ first game action since Week 4.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: DT Poona Ford. With Shamar Stephen sitting out due to a foot injury, Ford made his first career NFL start against the 49ers on Sunday and opened the game with a bang, recording three tackles on the Seahawks’ first two defensive possessions. The 5-foot-11 undrafted rookie out of Texas doesn’t fit the typical build for an NFL nose tackle, but he pursues opposing ball-carriers sideline-to-sideline and uses his long arms to dislodge from blocks in the run game. Even with Stephen expected to return on Monday, Ford should see plenty of snaps against a Vikings squad that wants to get back to running the football.

GAME PLAN: Seattle managed to hammer San Francisco last weekend while throwing the football only 17 times, but that game plan may not translate well this week against Minnesota for a couple reasons. First off, the Vikings rank seventh in the NFL defending the run and have held opponents under 3.8 yards per carry in seven of their 12 games. This doesn’t mean the Seahawks need to abandon the run – the Patriots were able to rush for 160 yards against them and it will be helpful slowing down Danielle Hunter and a talented Vikings front line – but they’ll need to be a bit more aggressive passing on early downs to move the football with consistency. The Seahawks will also be hard-pressed to duplicate their success with downfield throws, as the Vikings rank among the best in the league at limiting explosive 20-plus-yard plays.

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has been openly frustrated about the lack of carries in the run game and wasn’t pleased that the Vikings only called 13 running plays against New England. Consequently, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has been under fire, as Minnesota ranks 30th in the NFL averaging only 86.1 rushing yards per game this season. With Zimmer pleading for more emphasis on the run game and the Seahawks struggling much of the season to slow down opposing running games, head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. have to expect a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook on Monday and strong play in the interior from Jarran Reed, Shamar Stephen, Poona Ford, and Naz Jones will be critical. In the secondary, Seattle should be most concerned about the play-making ability of Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen, who has 622 receiving yards from the slot and can also do damage playing on the outside.

–Seahawks LT Duane Brown vs. Vikings DE Danielle Hunter. Brown has been a savior protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side since arriving via trade last season and has enjoyed a strong first full season with the Seahawks. He’s also served as a mentor for young linemen such as right tackle Germain Ifedi, proving instrumental in the massive improvements up front as a whole for Seattle. He’s going to have his hands full with Hunter, however, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 11.5 sacks this season and already has a career-high 58 tackles and 15 quarterback hits for Minnesota. The 6-foot-5 defensive end can win with speed around the edge as well with power as a bull rusher, presenting quite the challenge for Brown.

–Seahawks WR David Moore vs. Vikings CB Holton Hill. Minnesota dodged a bullet when Xavier Rhodes was able to return to action in a part-time role last week against New England, but they can’t catch a break in the secondary. Right after Rhodes returned from a hamstring injury, starter Trae Waynes left with a concussion, putting his status in question for Monday at Seattle. If Waynes cannot play, Hill, an undrafted rookie out of Texas, would step into the starting lineup as his replacement. Hill’s draft stock plummeted due to character questions coming out of college, but at 6-foot-3, he has great length along with excellent athletic traits. With that said, he doesn’t have much starting experience and with Rhodes monitoring the other side, don’t be surprised if Wilson tries to go after Hill frequently on Monday night. Much as he did picking on Panthers CB Corn Elder two weeks ago, Moore could be the beneficiary.