Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was asked during his Friday press conference if the team was going to make any changes to the team’s travel plans? The answer was an emphatic no. The Seahawks will travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday morning 10:00 am (PT) kickoff .The Seahawks are 197 in since 2013 and were 31 last season in early kickoffs. Seattle has won 11 of its last 12 early kickoffs since 2018. If the Hawks are to win their second consecutive season-opening game a few questions will need to be answered.
WHO WILL START AT CORNERBACK?
The Seahawks cornerback rotation has been nothing short of a merry go around. Tre Flowers beat out Ahkello Witherspoon and will start at the right cornerback. Witherspoon was shipped to the Pittsburg Steelers last week for a 2023 fifth-round draft pick. A fully recovered D.J. Reed is slated to start at left cornerback after playing on both sides last year. Reed started eight games last year and became the team’s primary nickel back. After dealing with a groin issue the majority of camp Reed returned to practice the last week of August.
Is he ready? Reed participated in a total of 10 games recording 62 tackles, seven pass breakups, and two interceptions. The 5’9 Reed 193 has shown a knack for the ball because of his closing speed. The Hawks restocked their defensive backfield with acquisitions of Sidney Jones, John Reid, and Blessuan Austin. Jones will be back up Flowers at right with Reid and Austin backing up Reed at left.
Look for Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to mix and match the nickel and blitz packages to not only confuse Wentz but to also fit his personnel grouping. Just because Reed and Flowers start the game does not mean they will finish the game. Much like running back by committee Norton Jr. will do the same with his cornerbacks.
(On the cornerback group heading into Week 1)
“It’s been a competitive situation and it started out that way. The offseason, in our mind, was competitive, we were going to see how it would turn out, and it remains that way. Tre (Flowers) played terrific all camp and did everything we needed to see. It was not as clear-cut for D.J. (Reed) but he has looked terrific on the practice field and has done everything we expected him to do. From there, the next place you look at is the nickel spot and Ugo (Amadi) and Marquise (Blair) are still in the competition. They both did everything we hoped they could do, and we haven’t declared who is on top of that yet so we will let the competition continue. Other than that, it is open competition. We will see how it goes and see how these guys do. They have been really upbeat, on it, and sharp in practice but it’s going to take a little while to sort that thing out.”
WHAT DOES THE UPTEMPO LOOK LIKE ?
The arrival of Shane Waldron as the Seahawks offensive coordinator marked the beginning of the up-tempo offense. With none of the prime-time offensive weapons sitting out the preseason no one really knows what it looks like. On Sunday Waldron is set to unleash his offense.
“I feel great about it. We had a good offseason program. The guys did such an unbelievable job like everyone did around the league, and around the country with the COVID times and adjusting to be able to do everything over ‘Zoom’. That went right into OTA’s, a period where we were out on the grass for those few days with all the guys. The best thing was when we showed up for camp, these guys come in shape and ready to roll and just hitting the ground running so we didn’t feel like we had to, even though there was a newness to the offense, didn’t feel like we had to start over again or start from scratch when training camp arrived. That’s just built upon every one of those practices from the start to where we’re at today.”
Despite all the hype look for the Seahawks to try and establish the run with multiple doses of Chris Carson running inside and outside. Carson had a great camp is well-rested. This will not be an easy task, however. The Colts were second in the NFL in run defense giving up just 90.5 yards per game last year.
WHO WINS THE FIRST DOWN BATTLE?
The keys to winning a football game are winning all three phases of the game. Offense, defense, and special teams. The turnover battle and controlling the line of scrimmage. Yes, that’s five. Math is bad but not that bad. Winning the line of scrimmage means winning the third-down battle on both sides of the ball. Before you get to the third down there is the first down.
Creating positive yardage on the first down allows you to open the playbook on the third. Third and short is positive for the offense, third and long is a positive for the defense.
Here is what head coach Pete Carroll had to say when I asked him about the importance of first down and how it relates to third down.
(On how important first down will be to set the tone) “It depends. It’s always crucial if you have a first down on either side of the ball. It starts the sequence in a particular fashion. I wouldn’t say first downs are the whole story, but they can be significant if you’re effective and consistent there. It all comes down to converting on third down is the essence of it. It’s nice to be successful and feel the momentum. It helps the play caller on either side of the ball when you’re in control of the down. You think about defensively how crucial the first, first down is. That’s a chance to setup that sequence and get out of there in three plays. It’s big for the series to start first down and more so than anything probably for the defensive side.
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has been besties with head coach Frank Reich ever since the duo won a Super Bowl in 2017. Big reason Reich brought in Wentz to lead the Colts attack. The problem is Wentz has had one week of practice with the team due to a foot injury. Colt’s offensive strategy will be simplicity. Simply the offense by handing the ball off to Jonathan Taylor. The second-year back from Wisconsin had 1,169 rushing yards last year which was third-best in the NFL. His 11 TDs tied him for 7th. The Colt’s offensive line is solid and one of the best in the league despite the absence of All-Pro Left tackle who is recovering from a torn Achilles.