Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung Is Deciding Factor Against Oakland Raiders

Marci NobleAnalyst IOctober 26, 2010

Okung taking on Julius Peppers in Week 6
Okung taking on Julius Peppers in Week 6Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Seahawks rookie left tackle Russell Okung left Seattle's game against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday with his second ankle sprain of the season. Though this sprain is not nearly as bad as the first which sidelined Okung for the first three regular season games, he is still questionable for Week 8 at Oakland.

Okung has played just one full-length regular season game with the Seahawks and his presence was evident. Against the Bears in Week 6 the Seahawks' offense looked complete. Forsett and Lynch ripped holes in the Bears' defense; Hasselbeck and Williams lit up the red zone. The opening drive last Sunday at Qwest Field looked to be more of the same.

Until Okung limped off the grid.

Afterwards, the Seahawks never regained their rhythm.

Lynch, who ran for 47 yards on his first six carries of the game (including a Seahawks' season best 39-yard run), was held to small yardage the rest of the afternoon, earning only 42 more yards over three quarters.

Hasselbeck was sacked an embarrassing five times.

And 15 of the Seahawks 22 total points were field goals. (Congratulations to Olindo Mare on a great game, and on continuing his streak—way to make Jim Mora Jr. eat his words.)

Having Okung changes the Seahawks' entire chemistry on offense and could make or break the Seahawks' next meeting.

The Oakland Raiders are a team that have been consistently inconsistent over the past couple seasons. Typically a losing team, they serve as the NFL's finest upset artist, turning over teams like the Steelers, Eagles, and Bengals in 2009. So far in 2010, they have lost to the Cardinals and the 49ers, but somehow managed to come ahead of the Chargers and Broncos.

Against the Broncos last week, the Raiders dominated, scoring 24 of their 59 points in the first six minutes, and never letting the Broncos make a comeback.

McFadden and Bush were unstoppable. The Raiders' defense forced turnovers on each of the Broncos' first two plays. Jason Campbell, playing on a sprained knee, threw for 204 yards and even rushed for 15.

The Broncos couldn't make plays and every move the Raiders made was executed perfectly.

All this after the Raiders played their worst game of the season against the 49ers. In Week 6, the Raiders were only able to come up with 179 total yards, but claimed over 500 in Denver.

It would have been ultra-embarrassing to be wearing blue and orange last weekend. 

Without Okung it might be just as embarrassing to be wearing Seahawks blue and green this weekend.

The Raiders strength last weekend was the Broncos' second string. Oakland took advantage of those Broncos players that were replacing injured teammates and capitalized on it. They will already be looking to compromise the play of the many players Carroll and Schneider release and re-sign weekly. If Okung is not playing, they will have Polombus' number, too.

The Seahawks are playing on the road and Carroll and co. are under a lot of pressure to prove that the win in Chicago was more than luck. Especially after last weekend's ugly home win that made for a short highlight reel.

The only Seahawks win this season that fans have to be proud of is the one Okung was a part of. Hasselbeck had great coverage all game and was never pressured from the blind side. Lynch's "beast mode" was used to it's full potential and Forsett had clear holes to blow through. Without Okung last weekend, none of those things happened and the Seahawks' win can be attributed (mostly) to worse play by the Cardinals.

If the Raiders show up with the gusto they did last weekend, and Okung doesn't play, the Seahawks' chances are limited. Their only hope lies in Tom Cable's inadvertent habit to coach a stronger team when the Raiders are up against a division rival, and in the Seahawks' defense. Tatupu, Hawthorne, and Curry should be able to slow down McFadden the way they have every other running back they've been up against and Trufant, Clemons, and Babineaux should be able to get in Campbell's way on pass plays.

As of Tuesday, Pete Carroll's official word on Okung's status for Sunday at Oakland was an optimistic, "we'll wait and see."

With Okung this weekend, the Seahawks' play will be fast-paced, precise, and explosive.

Without him, we will see more sacks of Hasselbeck, more turnovers, and the Seahawks offense won't get off the ground until at least midway through the second quarter.