Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle Seahawks Face Huge Challenge on Sunday

Derek StephensContributor INovember 5, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - AUGUST 28:  Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to hand off against the Minnesota Vikings during a preseason NFL game at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on August 28, 2010  in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

With Matt Hasselbeck out due to a concussion he suffered against the Oakland "Block-Me-Not's," Charlie Whitehurst will get his first official NFL start on Sunday at home against the Giants.

For many fans, a Whitehurst promotion has been long-awaited. For realists like me, it has been long-dreaded. And I’m not changing my tone. No sense trying to put a pretty spin on an ugly situation.

My pessimism actually has less to do with Whitehurst and more to do with the Seahawks O-line which will, in theory, face an even greater challenge than the debacle that was Oakland last week.

Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, the starting DE’s for New York, have a combined 12 sacks (eight for Umenyiora, four for Tuck), and inside tackles Barry Cofield (3.0) and Chris Canty (1.5) have combined for another 4.5, to give the Giants the No. 3 sacking defense in the league.

Oh, and Mathias Kiwanuka had racked up four sacks of his own before being placed on IR after suffering a neck injury. Neck injuries aren’t normally good news. Just this one.

That was mean…sorry.

On the Seahawks side of the ball, Russell Okung is most likely out again, and it is presumed that Chester Pitts will man the left tackle spot and face off with Umenyiora. This makes the one positive factor of a Whitehurst start stand out even more…

…he can run.

Schematically, Seattle cannot mess around with straight five- or seven-step drops. Unfortunately for Whitehurst, that’s where he has been at his best.

When he has time to set his feet in the pocket, scan the field and load up the deep ball, he’s looked a lot better than when he’s had to take three steps, plant and hit the slant route or quick-out.

It’s been on the shorter routes where he’s actually struggled, and not just because they’re short routes, but because they rely heavily on the ability of the QB to time his drop with the pattern of the receiver.

This requires the ability to read zone coverages and demands that the receiver get off the line and beat press-coverage to get into the necessary rhythm of the assigned route.

Yeah, well, beating the press was something that Seattle receivers, and namely Mike Williams, were unable to do against the Raiders. And Charlie Whitehurst has struggled with short, timing-based passes.

Bad combo.

Look back at Arizona and Chicago, a two-game span over the course of which Williams hauled in a combined 21 passes, and you’ll see cornerbacks playing off. Hasselbeck and Williams were able to take advantage of the soft coverage and find some room underneath.

Now, I’m not a bettin’ man, but I’d be willing to put a couple of bucks down on the chances that the Giants have looked at last week's Oakland-Seattle tape. Something should be very clear there…

The Seahawks offense was overwhelmed by press coverage.

If they’re smart, they’ll do the same thing. And trust me folks, Tom Coughlin is a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them.

So, let’s combine the fierce, Top Three NFL pass rush of the Giants, with the patchwork (at best) O-line line of the Seahawks. Then take a backup QB making his first-ever NFL start behind said patchwork O-line.

Then combine that with a press-coverage tandem of two big, physical cornerbacks in Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas, jamming receivers at the line who have struggled against the press coverage.

Then consider those big, physical corners bumping said receivers off their timing-dependent routes as they look to catch passes from the timing-challenged QB who has no choice but to make three-step drops and throw timing-based passes due to the hot pursuit of the Top Three NFL pass rush and what do you have?

You fill in the blank, but if the word is anything other than one that drips with negativity and ugliness, then you just might believe in the Tooth Fairy, too.

So what’s the answer then? How do you game-plan if you’re Seattle?

It’s simple. You have to do what you failed miserably to do last week—establish a run.

I said “It’s Simple.” I didn’t say it would be easy. And it won’t.

The Giants are surrendering a mere 85.4 rushing yards per game (also No. 3 in the league). But hey, I’ll take 85 yards over whatever the terrible number was last week. Especially if it will help me buy Charlie some time to make plays down the field in play-action scenarios.

I do believe that Whitehurst could be effective if he has a chance to set up and look down the field. But he needs the run to at least pose as a semi-threat in order to have time. He’s going to need play-action if he wants to have even the slightest chance of setting his feet.

All Seattle needs from the O-line is for them to be good at one thing on Sunday in order to give the ‘Hawks a chance. That’s it. One thing.

It can be pass-protect, or it can be run block.

Something tells me it won’t be the first one.

As for defense, the challenge will be neutralizing the run, and putting pressure on Eli Manning. Both will be tall orders, as the Giants have the fourth-ranked rushing offense and the seventh-ranked pass protection (12 sacks surrendered) in the league. Throw two of the league’s top receivers into the mix in Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, and you have quite a challenge on your hands.

With run-stuffers Colin Cole and Red Bryant out, and Brandon Mebane coming back from injury, it’s not looking good for Seattle in terms of stopping the run. They’ll need to hope that a possible return of Walter Thurmond to the right corner spot, and some aggressive blitz packages, might be able to pose some challenges to Manning and Co. in the passing game.

Again, much like on offense, Seattle will need its defense to do one thing well on Sunday. Stop the run or disrupt the pass.

And again, I don’t see them being able to count on the first of those two happening, considering the injuries to the D-line.

It doesn’t have to be pretty this week. The Seahawks just need to get through another week and buy themselves some time to get some key players back from injury.

Sound familiar?

That’s pretty much the one lingering characteristic that has carried over from Seahawks teams of the last two years—the injury bug.

All the turnover in the world won’t get rid of that rascal.

For more in-depth analysis and discussion of Seattle Seahawks Football with Derek Stephens, visit The Blue Bird Herd.


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