Enemy Confidential: Growing Washington football team presents tough test for Seattle Seahawks

For most of the 2021 season, the paths of the Seahawks and the Washington football team have been reflected in almost every aspect.

Entering a new season as reigning division champions, both teams started with 2-5 records respectively, losing their starting quarterbacks to injuries in the process. Defensively, each team struggled to slow their opponents down, with Seattle allowing 23 points and 414 yards per game and Washington giving up 30 points and 405 yards per game during that span.

But while the Seahawks haven’t been able to escape the trail since Russell Wilson returned from finger surgery two weeks ago, Washington has found itself in the opposite direction at the perfect time. After losses in six of their first eight games, coach Ron Rivera’s club have secured impressive back-to-back wins over defending champions Buccaneers and Panthers, returning to the wild card table with seven games remaining on the schedule.

During the team’s current winning streak, quarterback Taylor Heinicke has played the best football of his young NFL career. Against Tampa Bay, the former Old Dominion star managed 81 percent of his passes to duel Tom Brady in a shocking 29-19 victory. Then he followed up with an even better outing, throwing three touchdowns in a 27-21 road win over a strong Carolina defense.

Helping Washington’s cause, even after losing former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young to a torn ACL, Rivera’s defense has come to life in recent weeks. Slowing down attacks led by Brady and Cam Newton, even losing to No.2 pick Chase Young to a late-season injury, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s side limited the Buccaneers and Panthers to 20 points and 285. total yards per game.

“I’m sure they’re really excited to be going where they’re going,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “They looked really strong, a really well balanced team, much like we saw Ron [Rivera] teams over the years. They are good as a team, they are good in defense and they do it in attack. They have a very good system. We are facing a good club. Unfortunately we catch them when they’re hot and stuff. We have to do a really good job this week and learn. “

With both teams away for the wild card race in the NFC, Monday’s game will look like a playoff game. The Seahawks can’t afford another loss, as falling to 3-8 would most certainly put an ax to their already nearly impossible playoff hopes, while Washington has a great chance to catch up on a struggling Cowboys team. in first place in the NFC East.

Heading into Monday’s clash near the nation’s capital, here’s a look at the Seahawks’ Week 12 opponent, including series history, additions / starts, schematic overview, numbers. keys and Carroll’s assessment of the Washington football team.

History of the series

19th regular season meeting. Washington leads the all-time series 12-9, while Seattle has won all three playoff games.

After the Seahawks entered the NFL in 1976, Washington won five of the first six games, including four consecutive wins from 1983 to 1992. Seattle’s longest winning streak in the series was from 1994 to 1998. with three consecutive wins, including a pair of wins. on the road. Since Carroll’s arrival in 2010, the Seahawks have won three of the last five games, including a road playoff victory in Washington in 2012 and a road victory in 2020.

What’s new

departures: Washington hasn’t had too many top-tier free agency starts, but veteran cornerback Ronald Darby rushed to Denver on a three-year contract. Longtime starting tackle Morgan Moses has been released, opening a starting position eventually taken by former Chicago star Charles Leno. Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan also left after 10 seasons with the organization to move to division rival Eagles.

Additions: Sticking to their usual free agency aggressiveness under owner Dan Snyder, Washington improved its secondary by signing former Bengals first-round cornerback William Jackson III to a $ 40.5 million contract on three years. The team also made some thrifty additions on offense, recruiting dynamic playmaker Curtis Samuel away from the Panthers and quickly pulling Leno out of the market when Chicago mysteriously released him after the draft in May. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has also joined the team on a one-year contract as an expected starter, only to be sidelined with a major hip injury in the season opener. In the draft, Rivera bolstered his defense using a first-round pick over Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis and also found potential long-term starters in versatile lineman Samuel Cosmi and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. in the second and third rounds respectively.

Injury report

Washington enters Monday’s contest in fairly good health, but Heinicke could be without two of his best receivers behind Terry McLaurin with Samuel and fellow veteran Adam Humphries listed as questionable with groin and hip injuries respectively. Cosmi, who has won six starts so far as a rookie, will also miss the game with a hip injury and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones is uncertain with his own hip issue.

Inside the diagram

Under the guidance of coordinator Scott Turner, Washington has used 11 people with three receivers, a running back and a tight end on 77 percent of his offensive shots, second behind the Los Angeles Rams. The majority of the rest of their games (16 percent) came from 12 staff members with a substitute receiver for a tight second winger on the pitch.

According to Pro Football Focus, Washington schematically used a balanced rush attack in 2020, a running zone on 49.5% of runs. This year, Turner relied more on the indoor and outdoor area with a clip of 62.5%. Playing action was also a big part of the team’s offense, with Heinicke stepping back to go offside 127 times, the fourth-highest total in the NFL. He was very effective in these situations, making 75 percent of his shots with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

Basically, Washington remained a high area coverage team under the leadership of experienced coordinator Jack Del Rio, running Cover 3, Cover 1 and Quarters as primary covers. The unit was also one of the most aggressive, blitzing 32.2% of the time, the fifth highest rate in the league. It didn’t lead to any high hitting or quarterback totals, but the blitz helped offset injuries to Young and Montez Sweat, the team’s two top edge rushers.

By the numbers

46.8: Percentage hit in the red zone by Washington’s offense, ranked 31st in the NFL

123: rushing yards per game, 10th best in NFL

9: Interceptions thrown by Heinicke, tied for fourth among qualified passers

67: Success rate of successful blocks as a percentage by ESPN, fourth best in the league

5: Antonio Gibson fumbles, most among NFL running backs according to Pro Football Focus

24: Touchdown passes allowed, second behind the Colts

7.7: yards per attempt allowed at opposing quarterbacks, tied for sixth-worst in the league

985: rushing yards allowed, fourth under among 32 NFL teams

52.9: Third conversion rate against, ranked last in the league

20.7: Percentage of wins for Jonathan Allen as passer, 10th best by PFF

Carroll’s thoughts

–On Heinicke’s growth in coordinator Scott Turner’s offense: “Taylor Heinicke is playing well. He plays good football for them. He was really resourceful. He’s obviously responsible for their attack and can throw anything they ask him to throw. He threw the ball 40 times something, he has a good average there. Not just escaping in the scrambles, but reading the option opportunities and stuff like that, he does a good job. He really is a double threat to us in this regard. “

–On the star corner of McLaurin catching passes from Heinicke: “He’s really fast, so he always has the advantage over opportunities. He’s a very good athlete, a really powerful and explosive athlete. Takes off very well from the ground. You can see and feel its strength. He does not get knocked down when he goes to play the ball. They know how to put the ball on him and use it. He was just rightfully what people thought he would come out of the draft. He’s a great player.

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