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Giants at Seahawks, Week 8: What to expect when the Giants have the ball

What should we expect from the Seattle defense?

Seattle Seahawks v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 6-1 New York Giants will be flying across the country to visit the 4-3 Seattle Seahawks in Week 8.

The Seahawks, as with the Giants, have been one of the major surprise teams in the 2022 season. Seattle was considered a shoe-in for a Top 5 pick after they traded QB Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. But instead, their offense has blossomed under Geno Smith and they are leading the NFC West.

Much like the Giants, the Seahawks have also featured an opportunistic defense that has made opposing offenses pay for mistakes.

Methodical offense, composure, and not making mistakes has been the Giants’ formula for success. Can the Giants continue that on Sunday? And what should we expect from the surprising Seahawks?

Overcoming injuries

The Giants have done an excellent job of dealing with injuries throughout the 2022 season. They’ve been beset by soft-tissue injuries dating back to training camp and pre-season. While most of those injuries have been relatively short-term, they still piled up quickly and tested the Giants’ depth.

It’s a testament to the team’s coaching staff and how well they’re preparing all of their players to contribute at a moment’s notice — as well as how well they’re putting their players in position to succeed.

But even in the context of the Giants’ 2022 injury woes, Week 7 was a body blow.

The Giants lost starting left guard Ben Bredeson (knee) and right tackle Evan Neal (MCL) early in the game. They also lost tight end Daniel Bellinger later in the game. Joshua Ezeudu, Tyre Phillips, Chris Myarick, and Tanner Hudson filled in admirably.

However, filling in during a game and starting are two different matters. Bellinger has been the Giants’ most consistent receiver over the course of the year and his blocking has also been a key part of the Giants’ offense as a whole.

Likewise, Bredeson and Neal have played well of late. Both players have been important figures in the run blocking schemes and Bredeson is the Giants’ primary depth at center.

The Giants will need to not only adapt their blocking schemes to account for the players’ absence, but they’ll also need to account for the Seahawks attempting to exploit the Giants’ injuries.

Seattle is well-known for its hybrid 4-3 front (described by Pete Carroll as a 4-3 front that used 3-4 personnel), which caused headaches for opposing blockers for much of the last decade.

This year, however, the Seahawks are employing more of a “multiple” front that’s based in 3-4 personnel. They have been making heavier use of unconventional personnel groupings and alignments.

The good news for the Giants is that the Seahawks don’t blitz all that often. That said, they frequently use five or six players on the line of scrimmage, presenting the potential of one-on-one match-ups. The Giants will likely want to use double-teams to help Ezeudu and Phillips, but the Seahawks’ defensive alignments could make calling those double teams tricky.

Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have proven incredibly adept at both overcoming injuries and exploiting defense’s tendencies. How the Giants adapt to overcome their injuries on offense will be one of the points around which this game could pivot.

Stealing possessions

The Seahawks don’t have a great defense, and they tend to give up yards both on the ground and through the air.

They’re tied for the most rushing yards surrendered (1,048) and are giving up the sixth-most yards per carry (4.9). Likewise, they have also given up 10 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for third-most in the NFL.

This is, of course, fantastic news for the Giants, who rely heavily on their running game. The Giants want to hand the ball off throughout the game and at the end of games in particular.

Their pass defense, likewise, has given up yards and points. They’re currently seventh in yards allowed and 10th in passing touchdowns allowed. They’re in the middle of the pack as far as pressure rate goes — not bad, but nothing to write home about, either.

The saving grace of the Seahawks’ defense has been their ability to generate turnovers. Between fumbles and interceptions, the Seahawks have the fourth-highest takeaway rate in the NFL. They have 11 forced fumbles overall and are second in the NFL with 7 recovered fumbles. They’re also 16th in the NFL with 5 interceptions.

Considering Pete Carroll’s defensive philosophy and the Seahawks’ history, it’s fitting that the secondary leads the way. Cornerback Coby Bryant leads the Seahawks with 4 forced fumbles, while rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen has 4 interceptions, tied for the league lead with Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer.

Woolen represents a unique challenge for the Giants’ offense — any offense, really. The former fifth-round pick out of the University of Texas - San Antonio (UTSA) has rare athletic traits. Measuring at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he runs a blazing 4.26-second 40 and has a 42-inch vertical leap. While he doesn’t have great agility, his length and explosiveness allow him to quickly close passing windows.

The Seahawks also use a coverage scheme we haven’t seen much of against the Giants. They’re almost exclusively a zone defense, using Cover 3 schemes a bit more than league-average and Cover 6 much more than league-average.

In contrast, Daniel Jones has seen Cover 6 shells on just three pass attempts all season (per Pro Football Focus).

The Cover 6 is a versatile defense that mixes Cover 2 and Cover 4 shells (2+4=6), and is also referred to as “quarter, quarter, half” coverage. It does a good job of allowing defenses to take away deeper routes while also disguising coverages.

Cover 6 shells give defensive coordinators the freedom to roll coverages and layer defenders in ways that can cause trouble for “high-low” concepts. That could prove problematic for a Giants’ offense that uses layered routes, particularly on third downs.

Nick Falato does an excellent job of breaking down the Cover 6 defense and how to beat it in this ‘Summer School’ post.

While Seattle uses a lot of zone coverage shells, the Seahawks aren’t a pure zone team. They put a lot on the opposing quarterback with MOD (Man Only Deep) and MEG (Man Everywhere he Goes) coverage rules. MOD and MEG are covered in the linked post above, but the basic idea is that they allow a zone defense to frustrate an offense by unexpectedly using man coverage.

Those coverage rules allow the Seahawks to balance Michael Jackson and Bryant’s ability as zone defenders with Woolen’s physicality and athleticism in man coverage.

Complementary football

It isn’t a surprise to see teams like the Kansas City Chiefs (first), Baltimore Ravens (third), Buffalo Bills (fourth), or Cincinnati Bengals (sixth) at the top of the NFL in scoring offense. What IS a surprise is to see the Seattle Seahawks sitting No. 2, just behind the Chiefs, in scoring.

This (obviously) isn’t a post about the Seahawks’ offense, but it still bears mentioning because of how the two work together and influence opponents.

The Giants’ offense has helped their defense by controlling the clock and coming away with points pretty much any time they move the ball inside the opponents’ 40-yard line. Their methodical play and clean execution forces teams to play to tight margins of error. Opposing offenses have responded by pressing, becoming flustered, losing their composure, and ultimately making mistakes.

The Seahawks’ offense, on the other hand, has put pressure on opposing offenses to keep pace. That pressure to move the ball quickly and score to keep up has helped to knock opposing offenses out of their game-plans and into situations where they are more likely to make mistakes.

As we mentioned above, the Seahawks give opposing offenses plenty of chances (they’ve seen the second-most offensive plays in the NFL). However, all of those plays are also chances for the Seahawks defense to create a takeaway against an opponent that’s pressing to keep up with their offense. Takeaways obviously stop any offense cold, but they also give the Seahawks’ offense extra chances to add points and ratchet up the pressure on the opposing offense.

There are aspects of the Seahawks defense which the Giants can certainly exploit. Their porous run defense and reliance on big corners (often in off coverage) will create opportunities for smaller, quicker receivers like Richie James and Wan’Dale Robinson. However, the Giants will need to be careful with the ball and maintain the composure that has defined their offense all season.