Week one of the regular season is finally upon us. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I couldn’t be happier to see the 2011 Seahawks. You know, the real Seahawks, and not the bizarre and somewhat disappointing pre season version. It’s going to be great to see an actual game plan for once.
Each week we will go deep into the film and bring you the KEY match ups that may impact the game in the biggest way. It may be as obvious as the QB, it may be the second string outside linebacker, and it may even be a D lineman in passing situations. It all depends on what we feel a coaching staff may try to exploit on game day.
So let’s begin:
1. LT Joe Staley and LG Mike Iupati vs DE Chris Clemons and DT Brandon Mebane.
This is the look the Seahawks have to be a little nervous about. Never really understood just how impressive Mike Iupati was until I watched him closely on every play. He is extremely aggressive in his approach to the position. He can sometimes play a little high, but he is so incredibly strong that it usually doesn’t matter. He consistently throws DT’s around like rag dolls and will finish off blocks. He’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with at the guard position.
Seahawks DT Brandon Mebane, depending on alignment, will have his hands full. Mebane excels at penetration, and his ability to take on blockers to squeeze plays is well documented. He will have to be on his game for this success to continue against Mike Iupati.
Left tackle Joe Staley is another player that our defensive line will have to deal with. While he does not display the raw power that Iupati does, he shows great duck, fit and finish in his drive blocks. Chris Clemons will have a lot of trouble handling him on running downs. Look for the 49ers to run against the weak-side as much as possible. There are 2 reason’s Frank Gore is a household name, and one of them is the play of the offensive line.
2. Flex or TE combination routes against the 49ers underneath zones.
The Seahawks use of multi TE sets and Slot receiver crossing routes can be an issue for the underneath coverage of the 49ers linebackers. Patrick Willis is an amazing all world talent, but after the departure of Takeo Spikes, he is left as the lone elite player in the LB corps. Navarro Bowman has been promoted to take the spot vacated by Spikes, but has yet to play up to the required level so far this pre season. One thing I witnessed in a few different games was the ease at which underneath combination routes confused Bowman and Parys Haralson. Below is just one example of routes in question:
As you can see, the 49ers matched the Texans 3 wide, TE flex formation with a nickel alignment. Carlos Rodgers was left to cover the rub combination alone after Navarro Bowman dropped too deep into coverage and failed to recognize the routes developing in his zone. This made for a very easy pitch and catch. Patrick Willis can only do so much, and the fact that the Seahawks love to utilize similar formations to isolate the weak-side in coverage, bodes well for a couple nice completions. One has to think this will be something Darrell Bevell could look to exploit on Sunday.
3. Tarvaris Jackson vs the 49ers front 7.
When the Seahawks named Tarvaris Jackson the starter at QB the first thing I pictured was him on the move. Boots, waggles, half rolls, and sprint outs, all with the goal to vary his launch point and take advantage of his athleticism. When you add in the size of our receivers, you can see why I was very excited to see if this would work. While we all know everything starts upfront with pass protection, I feel like this approach would aid the line, and keep the 49ers from attacking the same landmark over and over.
This play turned into a great first down, but more importantly it showed another chink in the front seven’s aggressive style. Vic Fangio loves to blitz, and blitz, and blitz. If we can set up Tarvaris Jackson with a balanced attack, this could mean big things in the passing game.
After all of this pre-season scouting, I’ll admit this will be the hardest week to predict, considering the change in coaching staffs, lack of established team tendencies, and the vanilla styles employed. So just sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and enjoy the start of the 2011 Seahawk Season..