The 3-2 Seattle Seahawks come to MetLife Stadium Sunday to face the New York Giants. Let’s learn more about the Seahawks from Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls in this week’s “Five Questions” segment.
Ed: Giants fans love to complain about how bad the team's offensive line. But, we keep hearing that Seattle's is worse. What is the state of Seattle offensive line, and what is going on there?
Kenneth: Center Justin Britt is good. A converted tackle-slash-converted-guard really took to the center position and is somewhere on the cusp of the top 10 at his position maybe. That's where the good news, for Seahawks fans, ends.
The next best player on the line was left guard Luke Joeckel, but he's out for about a month following knee surgery. In his place will be rookie Ethan Pocic and third-year guard Mark Glowinski. Pocic was a second round pick out of LSU, where he played center. Despite his college position, Pocic really has the size to even play tackle if he's mentally and physically capable to handle it. For now he'll be making his debut at guard. But o-line coach Tom Cable says that both Pocic and Glowinski will be playing, though he would not commit to naming a starter. Glowinski was the right guard to open the year and then got benched for former Giants guard Oday Aboushi. We all hope that Pocic takes the job and doesn't give it back but you'd be foolish to not worry about the fact that he didn't earn a job out of training camp on the "worst line in football." Or that he's not even able to take the backup job outright from Glowinski.
As far as Aboushi, I don't think anything is going on at right guard to be excited about since he took over from Glowinski.
The right tackle spot is being handled by Germain Ifedi, a late first round pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M who struggled at right guard as a rookie and has moved those struggles out a bit wider in year two. I do think that Ifedi is improving though and he only allowed one QB pressure in their last game against the Rams. At this point, right tackle may be the second-most secure spot on the line. Definitely not left tackle, where Rees Odhiambo is completely out of his element. I know I've heard a lot of bad things about Ereck Flowers, but at least he's supposed to be a left tackle? Seattle was feeling pretty good about George Fant going into the year but he tore his ACL in the preseason and the team turned to Odhiambo, a third round pick out of Boise State last year who was expected to be a guard. He gets abused by pass rushers regularly and I'm sure that won't change if he's facing JPP or Vernon. Or .... anyone.
Ed: You are obviously aware that rookie tight end Evan Engram is now the team's primary target in the passing game. How have the Seahawks fared against tight ends, and will they do anything special to slow Engram?
Kenneth: "Burned by yet another tight end" has been a common refrain from Seahawks fans over the last 5-6 years, even when the defense has been dominant. And the evidence really supported that idea. Seattle ranked low against tight end defense in DVOA and it seemed like most of the passing touchdowns allowed went in that direction. Surprisingly, that has yet to be an issue in 2017. The Seahawks rank eighth against tight ends by DVOA and the player who has burned them the most may be Tyler Higbee of the Rams, who had a significant amount of production late in the game.
I also have to point out however that the Seahawks have not quite been facing your Kelce/Witten/Gronkowski types as of yet. I think Evan Engram is possibly the best tight end they've seen all year, even though he's still just going into his seventh career game. How they cover him is a bit of a mystery, but I don't know that anyone is fully up to the task alone, so you may see a lot of those double and triple-teams. We could speculate about Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Bradley McDougald, and Richard Sherman, but since the Giants don't have any receivers at the moment, I'm not sure anyone can guess given how unusual the situation is. The Broncos also have a good defense, but their safeties are nowhere near the caliber of Seattle's, so maybe that's a point of hope that the Seahawks can do a better job of covering Engram than they did.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants' roster and put him in your lineup (Odell Beckham doesn't count because he's on IR) who would it be? Why?
Kenneth: This is a good question and I have no doubts that my answer will probably not be that popular. But I'm going to take everything into account, including salary considerations.
A team can never have too many pass rushers, so immediately Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon jump off the page. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are both over 30 and we're not even 100 percent sure that Avril will return from his neck injury. Even Bennett is constantly nicked up, which is a concern now and moving forward. So you look at JPP (28) and OV (27) and it's easy to see how these guys could have at least 5-6 more years of being productive on the edge. That being said, I don't think I'd ever advocate for taking on Vernon's contract. I don't personally advocate for paying non-QBs more than $15 million a year and Vernon is making significantly more than that in each of the next three years, with plenty of dead money to make it hard to release him if something goes wrong. Even if the thing that goes wrong is just that New York struggles to pay other players, which could very well happen. JPP's is nearly as prohibitive, and now the Giants are paying two defensive ends a total of over $35 million per season. I'd rather have Bennett and Avril and Frank Clark for what they're making, which is like, $17 million per season.
Another popular answer would be Justin Pugh, because the Seahawks clearly have huge problems on the offensive line and Pugh, from what I understand, is very good. The issue with Pugh's contract though is that it expires after the year and if I plucked him now, it means Seattle must give him a huge offseason contract to retain him. Also, they couldn't take on his prorated $8 million salary without some serious adjustments and a potential release, so I don't know how they'd make that happen without getting weaker somewhere else or hurting their cap in future years.
I'd also have to seriously consider Damon Harrison, because defensive tackle has been a huge need for years and Harrison is one of the best in the game, but also a little too costly for his position overall, in my opinion. I'd also give a shoutout to Eli Apple, Landon Collins, and Janoris Jenkins. All players that would make sense. But my answer would have to be Engram. The Seahawks have been searching for a long-term TE of the Future for years and while Jimmy Graham is one of the best in the game, they have not extended him past 2017 yet. They also have Luke Willson on only a one-year deal, and number three tight end Nick Vannett (third round, 2016) has not done a thing. Engram could become one of the top five tight ends in the NFL, if not the best, and he's in the first year of a rookie deal. That's an immense amount of value, so Engram is my choice over some of the proven, but expensive, options. (And yes, my answer would be OBJ if it could be.)
Ed: Speaking of Beckham, how bummed are you that we won't get to see a Beckham-Richard Sherman matchup?
Kenneth: I think these injuries to players like Beckham, J.J. Watt, and Aaron Rodgers are all huge bummers. We are missing out on amazing plays from some of the greatest. I personally think Beckham is potentially the best offensive weapon in the entire NFL and a revolutionary player at the position who has changed the mindset of all young receivers to start expanding their catching radius by utilizing the one-handed catch. I know Beckham didn't invent the one-handed catch but he did popularize it and now it's entirely en vogue to figure out how to haul in passes even if you can only get a single paw on it. Beyond just being a fad though, the Beckham-style grabs are also improving the quality of play .... as long as said receivers aren't sacrificing some catches for a highlight attempt.
To consider that Sherman is also a Hall of Fame-level talent but on the other side of the ball, it sucks to not see them work against each other this year. I don't even know what Sherman is going to do with himself on Sunday if he has to guard a player who wasn't expected to be getting any playing time this year. It's a weird situation and a huge bummer.
Ed: Who are some under-the-radar Seahawks we might not know much about but should be aware of for Sunday?
Kenneth: Rookie cornerback Shaquill Grififin is a very promising young player who seems to have improved as the season has gone on, mostly checking in as an average-to-just-above-average corner, which is great given that he's just getting started. With Jeremy Lane injured, Griffin's responsibilities have gone up a bit in the last two weeks, and I'm not sure if Lane will play this week so we'll see how much Griffin participates. Given New York's problems at receiver, I'm not sure how much of a factor Griffin will play on defense, but he may be best served in support on run defense.
Is Frank Clark "under the radar"? Well, if you don't know this, let me tell you: He looks like he could be one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Clark had 10.5 sacks as the number three defensive end last year and with Avril on the shelf, he's now starting. He embarrassed Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth on a move last week that forced a sack-fumble on Jared Goff that changed the momentum/outcome of the game. You may know about him, but you may not know just how good he really is.
J.D. McKissic scored twice against the Colts two games ago and is a threat to break a big play on Sunday. Not sure how consistent the quality of his play will be but he's an interesting WR/RB combo that has filled in nicely in the absence of Chris Carson and often, C.J. Prosise.