The legendary “Legion of Boom” has long left Seattle, but the Seahawks still have some big names on their team. Russell Wilson is one of the game’s best quarterbacks, wide receiver DK Metcalf is a rising star, and linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Jamal Adams are among the very best — if not the best — their respective positions have to offer. From top to bottom, the Seahawks are one of the most talented teams in the NFL.
On Sunday night, the New England Patriots will go up against it in a highly anticipated prime time matchup. While the star players mentioned above will obviously have an enormous impact on the contest, they are not the only ones worth keeping a close eye on. In fact, there are five players Patriots fans should have on their radar as well, according to John Gilbert of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Field Gulls.
“Everybody knows the big names — Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and the rest,” John pointed out earlier this week. “That said, the key to the outcome of the game likely rests with many of the younger, less experienced players who will be on the field.”
John identified players on both sides of the ball as being important to the game beyond the big names: defensive end L.J. Collier and cornerback Marquise Blair, the Seahawks’ first- and second-round draft selections a year ago, as well as offensive linemen Ethan Pocic, Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell. All five men are projected to see considerable playing time on Sunday, and how the Patriots attack them could go a long way towards a victorious night.
“Collier has taken over a starting spot on the defensive line, and in Week 1 recorded double the number of pressures (two) as he had through the entire 2019 season (one),” John said about the 25-year-old. “How well he’s able to set the edge in the run game and put pressure on Newton in the passing game could be a significant factor in how well the defense plays overall.
“For Blair, he’s taken over the nickel corner spot, which of course likely means going against Julian Edelman in the slot on a regular basis. Just like in Super Bowl 49 when Edelman feasted on an injured Tharold Simon in the slot after Jeremy Lane was injured, the winner of the Edelman-Blair matchup likely has a good shot at coming out ahead at the end of the day.”
Collier and Blair proved themselves important rotational pieces of Seattle’s defense during last week’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Their roles will likely remain unchanged against the Patriots: Collier will be used all over the defensive line from the edge to the 3-technique position; Blair will line up mostly in the slot and go up against whoever New England uses there — be it veteran Julian Edelman or second-year men N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
“On the other side of the ball, the center and right side of the Seattle line are far less experienced than the left side, so the three players at those spots figure to be key in protecting Wilson,” added John. “In the middle of the line Ethan Pocic is starting just his second game for the Seahawks at center, while right guard Damien Lewis is a rookie third round pick playing in just his second NFL game after having had zero preseason.
“Add in free agent addition Brandon Shell, who was less than great when facing the Patriots while still a member of the New York Jets. Over the course of four starts against New England over the past three seasons Shell has allowed four sacks, two quarterback hits and 15 total pressures in 174 pass blocking snaps. With no preseason and just one game of experience learning to coordinate as a group, if Bill Belichick is able to scheme consistent pressure from the right side, it could turn into a long night for Seattle and its fans.”
The Patriots’ pass rush may have produced only one sack against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but it was still able to pressure quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on 38.2 percent of his dropbacks. Of course, Russell Wilson and Fitzpatrick are two different players: while both are legitimate threats to carry the football, Wilson is much more dangerous as both a runner and a passer — and less prone to make mistakes with the football in his hands.
Of course, a coordinated pass rush attacking Seattle’s inexperience on the right side of the offensive line could help force the veteran QB into making those mistakes. Either way, the Patriots will likely try to test the group early and often.