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5 Questions preview: Lions pass rush could make for a ‘long Sunday’ for shorthanded Seahawks

A preview with Field Gulls’ John Gilbert about the Week 2 matchup between the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After a huge road win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, the Detroit Lions are headed home to what will be an absolutely raucous crowd at Ford Field for their Week 2 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. With their sights set on getting revenge after last year’s shootout loss, the Lions have an opportunity to start the season on a winning streak, some unprecedented territory for the Dan Campbell era.

As always, we would never pass up the opportunity to get some intel from the opponent’s perspective. We called on John Gilbert from to give us a look into a Seahawks team trying to pick up the pieces after being upset at home by their division rival, the Los Angeles Rams.

Last week against the Los Angeles Rams, it was clear how the pass rush affected Geno Smith’s game–across 29 dropbacks, Smith was pressured on 13 of those snaps, completing just four passes on 10 attempts for 24 yards per Pro Football Focus. Pass protection will be at a premium in this game given the injuries to LT Charles Cross and RT Abe Lucas, so let’s start there: do you have a feeling about the availability for either of those guys this week? If they can’t go, what’s your confidence in backups Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe–and what kind of realistic expectations can you have about a 41-year-old Jason Peters stepping in on short notice?

This question was asked just hours before the Seahawks moved Abe Lucas to injured reserve, so he’s obviously out—not just for this game but until at least Week 7 thanks to the Week 6 bye the Seahawks enjoy this season. As for Cross, there’s always the possibility that he could play, but the simple fact that they signed Peters to the practice squad Tuesday and then added a pair of tackles to the 53-man roster would seem to be an indication that Cross is likely to miss time. Certainly, there will be those who are optimistic the amount of time he misses could be minimal, but the reality is that teams don’t go out and add three tackles following two injuries if players are expected back soon. What I will be watching closely is whether Cross travels with the team or not, and if he does not then he’ll be declared out Friday afternoon, making the Friday injury report worth waiting for.

With that in mind, one has to assume Peters will be one of the two practice squad elevations for the game this weekend, and it will be very interesting to see how Geno is able to handle whatever pressure he faces behind tackles who are likely to be either inexperienced or very rusty, depending on who is playing tackle. One of the weak spots in Geno’s game has been getting the ball where it needs to be in passing situations. If Detroit jumps out to a lead early and the Lions pass rushers can pin their ears back, it could make for another very long Sunday for Seattle fans.

It was truly a tale of two halves last weekend for the Seahawks offense. In the first half, their four drives resulted in two field goals, a touchdown, and a missed field goal before half to give them a 13-7 lead, but their five drives in the second half totaled 14 plays, 4:28 time of possession, and just 2 yards of net offense. The ground game was humming in the first half with Kenneth Walker leading the way, so what happened from a play-calling and execution standpoint?

The thing about running the ball in the NFL is that it’s like a slot machine. It will produce returns occasionally enough to trick the human mind into believing that it’s an effective strategy, but all the numbers bear out that in the long run it will eventually lead to struggles. In the first half, the Seahawks were able to string together enough first downs and conversions to sustain drives, but in the second half, the math caught up with them as the Rams took away the big play and Raheem Morris tweaked things just enough to slow down the run game. Add the loss of two starters on the offensive line to the Rams adjustments, and it was a recipe for disaster, especially as the Los Angeles offense was more than happy to take apart the Seattle defense with long drive after long drive.

Seattle forced Los Angeles to punt just once in the game and gave up points on all five of the Rams’ drives in the second half. After giving up 30 points to a Rams offense without their top receiver/weapon in Cooper Kupp–and I know Week 1 overreactions are commonplace for NFL discourse–what’s your level of concern for this Seahawks defense as a whole, and where do you expect them to improve this week against Detroit?

There were always going to be early season struggles for this defense based simply on the number of new faces expected to see significant playing time. Against the Rams, the Seahawks rolled out starters who weren’t on the roster in 2022 at strong safety, both defensive ends and one of the inside linebacker spots. In addition to that, one of the starting outside linebackers came into the game with 424 snaps of experience in his career and the new starting left cornerback entered the game having played just 276 career snaps. Between youth, inexperience, and new faces, several weeks of working out the kinks and developing the communication necessary for competent defensive play should be the expectation for this group. That’s not to say that they won’t come together and perform as a cohesive unit later in the season, but the areas where this unit is short—experience and time playing together—are not something that can simply be fast forwarded. Add in the potential for Devon Witherspoon and Jamal Adams to be thrown into the mix, and it could be midseason or later before this group even begins to scratch the surface of reaching its potential just from needing practice reps with one another.

What does that all mean for the Lions and their fans? Well, Ben Johnson had a field day to the tune of 45 points and 520 yards, and I will be zero percent surprised if he is able to put together something similar against the Hawks again this season. I’m certainly hoping that isn’t the case, but if Matthew Stafford can do it with a bunch of receivers he picked up at Home Depot on the way to the stadium, I fear Detroit could do even worse.

And just because this is a point that is worth making, the lone punt the Seattle defense forced came following a third-and-28 deep in their own territory when the Rams didn’t really try to convert.

Without making any sweeping conclusions from Week 1 about the Lions, it does seem like Detroit is still going to be a run-first offense that layers in the passing game. With that in mind, how do you think the Seahawks defense matches up for a physical game in the trenches?

After fans spent the majority of the offseason fretting about the run defense and lack of big bodies in the trenches up front, the run defense was one of the better performing units in Week 1. Yes, the Rams punched the ball into the end zone three times using the ground game, and Kyren Williams enters Week 2 leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns, but the reality is that the difference in the game was the 334 yards that came from Matthew Stafford’s arm and not the 81 yards gained by the Rams running backs. According to Pete Carroll, the Hawks defensive coaching staff tweaked how they’ll stop the run in 2023 compared to how they did it in 2022, and it worked very well in Week 1 against the Rams. The Seattle defense held the Rams to just 2.3 yards per carry, which forced the Los Angeles offense into throwing the ball, which they did to the tune of 8.8 yards per pass attempt while the Seahawks defensive front could do little in the way of applying pressure on Stafford.

What it comes down to is that it really doesn’t matter how well the Lions run the ball if the Seattle defense can’t get off the field on third down. The Rams converted 11 of 17 third downs, and if Jared Goff and the Lions offense can pick apart the Seahawks coverage the way Stafford and the Rams did, it could be another long day.

What’s one nugget of Seahawks’ intel that a gambling Lions fan would find useful for their bet slip this weekend?

In their last ten games, the Seahawks are 3-7, with all three of those victories coming against teams starting their backup quarterback. Going back to the start of the 2022 season, Seattle is 2-5 against teams that enter the game with both their starting quarterback and top wide receiver healthy. So, unless there’s a late injury addition for Detroit, it would seem to be a very winnable game for the Lions.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook for the latest odds surrounding this game. With the ever-changing news of the Seahawks’ offensive line, the odds are constantly shifting before Sunday’s kickoff.

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