Jets vs. Seahawks: 3 Key Matchups to Watch for Seattle
With a win on Sunday afternoon, head coach Pete Carroll can make it 2-0 against his two former clubs this season. Just four weeks ago he made a statement to his old boss Robert Kraft with a 24-23 victory over the New England Patriots. He will be looking for more of the same this week as the New York Jets travel to CenturyLink Field.
Unfortunately, Jets owner Woody Johnson did not own the team when Carroll was the head coach. Regardless, you know he has a chip on his shoulder and will want to make a statement any way he can. All time, Carroll is 2-4 against the New York Jets.
If Seattle wants to make it a perfect 5-0 at home this season, it will need to win a few important key matchups come Sunday. Let's take a look at which matchups will decide the outcome in Week 10.
Chris Clemons vs. D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Where in the world is Chris Clemons? The last three weeks I have highlighted his matchup, saying this is the week where he gets back on track. On Thursday Night Football I felt like he would have the upper hand against 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. More often than not the matchup would be a wash, but Staley was four days removed from a concussion.
The following week against left tackle Jeff Backus, I figured he would be well rested due to the long layover from Thursday night, and Backus might be ailing because of Detroit's Monday night game against the Bears. Yet, I was wrong once again—Clemons only managed three quarterback pressures on a fast surface.
Okay, two bad games in a row, a return home to the Pacific Northwest should do the trick right? Plus, there is no way a rookie left tackle would stonewall Clemons on his home turf. Wrong—for the third game in a row, he finished without a sack. It wouldn't be so bad if he was managing to get other pressures, but he wasn't even doing that.
From Week 7 to Week 9, Clemons has only been able to notch seven total quarterback pressures. Not one of the seven pressures has been a sack, only two have been quarterback hits and the other five have been hurries. Not to mention the three missed tackles in the run game are more than he had six weeks prior to Week 7.
Clemons could easily see this slump continue into Week 11. Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson is currently riding out an impressive pass protection streak that started during the preseason. Ferguson has yet to surrender a quarterback sack this season. In fact, the last time he allowed a sack was Week 16 of the 2011 season.
He's rebounding from an average 2011 campaign. Can Clemons get the 12th man behind him and force Ferguson into his first poor performance of the season, or will the big tackle from Virginia hold strong? We will have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure, Jason Jones' return should help.
John Moffitt vs. Muhammad Wilkerson
Left guard James Carpenter will miss his second straight game with a concussion, so second-year guard John Moffitt will make his second start of the season at left guard. Before last week's game against the Vikings, Moffitt hadn't started a game at left guard since his senior year in college.
Fortunately for Seattle, starting him at his natural position was the best decision it could have made. Running back Marshawn Lynch averaged 8.8 yards per carry when running off of his backside, and Pro Football Focus graded Moffitt out at a plus-1.8. The highest grade they had ever given him over the course of his young career.
The only negative is that the Seahawks have now figured out that he and Carp are better off at left guard. Both players were awful when shuffled around on the offensive line. Carpenter bombed when they experimented with him at right tackle last season. When he returns, do they give him a shot at right guard, or does Paul McQuistan hold down that spot?
All of those questions will sort themselves out when everyone is finally healthy. Right now Moffitt can only afford to think about one thing—the best 3-4 run stuffing defensive end in all of football. Muhammad Wilkerson may not be a household name to everyone, but when you turn on the tape he is the first player who jumps out at you.
Only Mike Iupati has been able to control the line of scrimmage against Wilkerson. Other than that, no one else has even stood a chance against the 6'4" 315-pound behemoth. His strength and use of leverage in the run game is astonishing. It's hard not to like his athleticism and footwork as well. Very few players of his size move the way he does.
According to PFF, only J.J. Watt has more defensive stops than Wilkerson. If you're not familiar with PFF's defensive stops category, it constitutes the number of solo defensive tackles that result in an offensive failure. Watt leads the NFL with 36, but Wilkerson is right there with 27 of his own.
There's no question Moffitt will have his hands full, but he may prove a lot of his skeptics wrong with another strong performance.
Bobby Wagner vs. Dustin Keller
Gus Bradley's defense has been atrocious in two main areas this season: Third-down defense and stopping the tight end. Stopping the tight end seems as if it comes and goes weekly, but there's no hiding the fact Seattle has given up the sixth most catches in the NFL to tight ends. It has also given up the eighth most yards to tight ends as well.
Given the fact that Dustin Keller is the New York Jets' main source of offense when he plays, it will be up to Bradley's defense to shut him down. Keller has only logged 234 snaps on the season, but in four games he has caught 16 of his 20 targets.
Over the last two games, he is averaging nine targets and 80 yards a game. 12 of his 16 receptions have come from zero-to-nine yards out over the middle of the field. Which is a good indicator of who might draw coverage on the Purdue Boilermaker.
It's doubtful they treat Keller like Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski with safety help, so inside linebacker Bobby Wagner should get the call. Wagner has outperformed everyone's expectations through the Seahawks' first nine games. He has shown the ability to play the run and rush the passer at a high level.
However, his numbers in coverage could afford a little bit of a bump. Don't get me wrong. He holds his own, but opposing quarterbacks have completed 13-of-15 passes against him for a quarterback rating of 96.9. He has shown improvement the last couple of weeks, but he needs to start breaking up some passes.
The good thing is that tight ends don't have a high yards per catch average, and they don't garner many yards after the catch. With Keller finally looking healthy, Wagner's biggest test in coverage will come this weekend.
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