Northwest Football.net sums up the problems on the Seahawks' offensive line: "With projected starters Walter Jones, Sean Locklear and Rob Sims all injured, Seattle once again will start a makeshift offensive line and hope for the best in protecting backup quarterback Seneca Wallace."
So, with both Jones and Locklear out, that elevates third-stringer Brandon Frye into the lineup at left tackle. Frye was a pleasant surprise last week according to Northwest Football: "With Walter Jones uncertain when or if he will return this season, and Sean Locklear still nursing a high ankle sprain, Brandon Frye is the team's starting left tackle. You know Frye don't you? The same guy the team picked up off the waiver wire three weeks ago when the Miami Dolphins cut him to trim down to the 53-man limit. Frye has been a pleasant surprise as a fill-in at left tackle, even playing through a strained groin against Chicago last week."
With Freeney out, the Seahawks will focus on slowing Mathis
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
This week, Frye will be helped by the fact that Colt DE Dwight Freeney is out with a quadriceps injury. Still, he should have his hands full with a mix of Raheem Brock, Keyunta Dawson and Robert Mathis. Expect defensive line coach John Teerlinck to mix and match his end combinations throughout the game looking for the best matchup.
As ColtPower Analyst Brad Keller notes in his scouting report of the Seahawks offense, Frye struggled at times last week against the Chicago Bear blitz, so look for Indianapolis defensive coordinator Larry Coyer to test Frye with some blitzes and overload looks. But given the injuries, especially at tackle, the Seahawks will likely counter with a lot of max protect calls or TE blocking help.
Now the question is, with Freeney out, does Seattle roll the dice and focus on double teaming LE Robert Mathis throughout and leave Frye on an island against Brock or Dawson from time to time? Seattle might actually be forced to do that because of the matchup on their right side. At 6-feet-6 and 320 pounds, RT Ray Willis is a massive body. He, however, shows mediocre footwork, does not move or kick out well and can be very limited in his lateral range. This lack of lateral range will prevent him from getting in the right set against a top notch speed rusher like Mathis. Willis would likely prefer that the Seahawks run the ball behind early and often, so that he can use his size and strength to wear down Mathis. Look for Seattle to make that their focus early.
On the interior, the Seahawks will start a rookie at RG, Max Unger, and two players working themselves back from minor injuries, C Chris Spencer and LG Rob Sims. An important matchup on the inside will be how well the rookie Unger holds up against Antonio Johnson and ether Eric Foster or Daniel Muir when they rotate in.
Unger was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Oregon. The Seahawks loved his versatility; he was drafted as a center, but can play all interior spots or even tackle in a pinch. Unger is a good athlete. He's mobile, pulls well and will hit the second level quickly. He's a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's newly minted zone blocking scheme. He gets in trouble when he starts getting too high out of his stance. This, combined with the fact that he always does not get good hand placement, will allow an agile defensive tackles to get inside of him.
If Unger starts getting too high, Antonio Johnson should be able to use good initial quickness and agility to his advantage. Johnson is still just a mediocre interior pass rusher. He lacks a variety of moves. So it might actually be the smaller nimbler quicker DT Eric Foster that has success against Unger, if Foster can get the rookie out of his stance and popping up too quickly.
Another key question facing the Seahawks interior is the health and well-being of LG Rob Sims. Sims tore a pec muscle in last year's opener and missed the remaining 15 games. This year, he's played in all three Seahawks games but is nursing an oblique injury that forced him off the field against Chicago and kept him out of practice most of this week. Sims was a limited participate on Friday and is expected to make the start.
When healthy, Sims is a big bodied mauler. He gets tremendous push in the running game, but is not very effective in space or when asked to pull outside the tackles. That combined with the fact that he has a stressed oblique will likely limit the Seattle from calling many zone blocking schemes that require a lot of lateral movement for the left guard. It'll be his role to hold up at the point on combo blocks in the run game or to use his big body and size to keep Colt DTs from collapsing the pocket.
Colts RDT Ed Johnson will need to use his solid first-step quickness to get good penetration and leverage off the snap. If he starts getting too stiff, too early, Sims will use his squatty frame and strength to seal off Johnson. This matchup is all about getting off the snap. Now individual matchups like those detailed above will not be as prevalent this week when the Seahawks run the ball. Seattle employs a zone blocking scheme.
Seahawks.com talked to offensive coordinator Greg Knapp about the new scheme:
"I don't know if it would be seen by the untrained eye," Knapp said when asked about the nuances of zone blocking compared to the way the Seahawks linemen blocked in the offense run by departed coach Mike Holmgren the past 10 seasons.
Two things to look for: One, a more decisive running style by the backs. "We're going to emphasize, ‘You're taking this path, and you've got one cut to do downhill; one cut, bounce outside,' " Knapp said. "A little less dance, a little more decisiveness."
Two, more combo blocks. "Guards and tackles working together. Tackles and tight end working together, and guards and center," Knapp said. "Not having that one lineman have to block the one technique all day long."
Expected result: Limiting penetration by the defense, which is aimed at nullifying minus-yardage runs on first and second downs that can lead to third-and-too-long situations. "That's one thing that's a benefit of the zone run game," Knapp said.
Seattle implemented the zone scheme because Knapp enjoyed plenty success with it in the past and they liked the quickness of their projected line. So they thought they had the personnel to make it work. That personnel, however, looks a little different now with two of those starters out and two nursing leg-related injuries.
Running a zone also requires exact timing and decision-making. Look for the Colts to attempt to alter Seattle's timing and decision-making with stunts and stems. It will be important the Colts hold their ground and not get blown off the ball. Unless an opening or an assignment mistake presents itself its more important for the defender to maintain his ground than get penetration. One key reason is because misdirections and draws will have plenty of success if the zone blocking scheme is working well.
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