Scouting Report: Healthy Sidney Rice poses matchup threat for Seahawks
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The Minnesota Vikings will try to bounce back from their ugliest loss of the season when they visit Seattle on Sunday. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Seahawks in his weekly scouting report:
The Vikings will recognize some familiar faces in the Seahawks offense when they travel to the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. WR Sidney Rice is arguably Seattle's best receiver and the offense is that of former Vikings offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell. Consequently, the offense features a lot of vanilla scheming and heavy doses of the run, punctuated with play-action shots and high-percentage passes. The offense looks better than it did for most of its tenure in Minnesota because QB Russell Wilson is better than anybody the Vikings had outside of 2009 Brett Favre. The Seahawks will also move Wilson around with rollouts and sliding pockets to give him more time to set up, especially on deep play-action shots.
On defense, the Seahawks play like few teams in the NFL. Their defensive front features an over-shifted 4-3 line with LE Red Bryant essentially an extra defensive tackle to stop the run and the linebackers covering the fringes. The Seahawks secondary is a collection of giants by comparison to the rest of the NFL, and they use those players to get aggressive in man coverage, with FS Earl Thomas providing the deep range and safety over the top while the other three latch onto patterns underneath. They also have one of the league's most fearsome nickel rush packages in which they deploy their first-round pass-rush specialist, DE Bruce Irvin.
The Seahawks corners are uniquely large, physical and aggressive. They seem to be taking the approach that, if they rough up receivers on every passing play, only the most flagrant offenses will be flagged. And while LCB Richard Sherman is clearly the better player, the key player for this matchup is RCB Brandon Browner on the other side, At 6-foot-4, Browner is a unique prospect for receivers, but the receivers that give him the most difficulty are small, quick players that don't allow him to get his hands on them and run short, severely breaking patterns. Over the past two seasons, Browner's worst games have come against Pittsburgh and their stable of small receivers, plus the Lions last week. Percy Harvin is Browner's worst nightmare on paper, but the Vikings need to be smart about the routes they run against him, forcing him back off the line before they open Harvin up, rather than just tossing him the ball with nothing to back the Seattle corner off, because he is very quick to come up on screens.
The Seahawks' pass rush is led by RE Chris Clemons, the one true every-down player from that front. While the Seahawks will rotate defensive tackles and bring in players for their nickel rush package, Clemons stays out on almost all of their snaps, playing 90.9% of them so far this year, and he generates the majority of their pressure, especially in base defense. He has taken the quarterback to the ground (either sacked of knocked down) 14 times this season, has another 22 hurries and has batted three passes down. But Clemons is vulnerable against the run and has five missed tackles to his name. Vikings LT Matt Kalil has been an impressive pass-protector in his rookie year, but he will be tested by Clemons, one of the league's best rushers. On the other side, Irvin (6-3, 245) represents a leverage disaster waiting to happen against RT Phil Loadholt. Irvin is there for his quickness and burst, and the big Vikings tackle will have his hands full trying to contain Irvin in obvious passing situations.
Since Vikings fans are likely wondering about him since departing, Rice is definitely a player they need to be concerned with. The Vikings likely moved on because they felt the price getting too high for a player they couldn't trust to stay healthy, and he has had plenty of injury problems in Seattle already, but right now he is fully healthy, and a fully healthy Rice is a formidable prospect. He has yet to top 100 receiving yards this season, but last week, he was thrown at eight times and caught six of those balls for 75 yards and a touchdown. His stats may not be anything to get excited about, but in a home game, the Vikings might get a glimpse of the player they saw during 2009 if they're not careful.
• The Seattle play-action game has given Wilson the league's highest average depth of target at 10.3 yards downfield. By comparison, Vikings QB Christian Ponder's aDOT is 6.3 yards downfield.
• LT Russell Okung and RT Breno Giacomini have combined to allow their quarterback to hit the ground (sacked or knocked down) just twice all year, but they have also combined for 17 penalties, taking a flag when beat rather than allowing the impact to their passer.
• HB Marshawn Lynch has forced 28 missed tackles on his carries this season, the same number as Vikings HB Adrian Peterson, adding yet more comparisons to the two runners drafted in the same year.
• Throwing into Sherman's coverage is yielding a passer rating of just 58.4 this season, but targeting Browner on the other side gives a much better rating of 85.0.
• Only 11 teams have allowed fewer total pressures than the Seahawks' offensive line this year, but they ranked 28th in PFF's O-line Rankings thanks to their disastrous run blocking and unmatched penalty count.