Three Key Matchups - Seattle vs. St. Louis

As much as any other professional sport, the NFL is a team game. No one player can be successful without the assistance of others. That said, individual matchups can and do determine winners and losers on a weekly basis. Here's Seattle-area resident and NFL scout Rob Rang's look at some of the individual matchups that will determine whether the Seattle Seahawks win or lose this week...

Here are his thoughts on the three critical one-on-one matchups for this week’s game.

DE Robert Quinn vs. LT Russell Okung

Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks a season, four of which came against the Seahawks. It is worth noting that only one came last season when Okung, the Pro Bowler, was healthy and active. Okung’s length, power and balance is generally enough to contain the explosive Rams pass rusher long enough for Russell Wilson to work his magic.

A foot injury that has plagued Okung since the preseason, however, has contributed to a barrage of penalties on the Pro Bowl left tackle, including multiple false starts. Quinn’s speed and long arms give him a significant advantage over pass blockers, as does the fact that he’s playing this contest in the friendly confines of Edward Jones Stadium. The Rams have also done a terrific job of supplementing the 6-4, 264-pound Quinn with other talented defensive linemen, not the least of which are former first rounders Chris Long (DE), Michael Brockers (DT) and the best young pass-rushing defensive tackle in recent years in rookie Aaron Donald.

Quinn, who as yet has not recorded a sack this season, could enjoy a bit of a breakout performance against the defending champs. He’s the star of the most talented defensive line in the NFL – which means that for the Seahawks to win this game in the run-game oriented fashion they seem to have re-committed to given Friday’s trade of Percy Harvin – they’re going to have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. To do so, Okung and the rest of the Seahawks blockers will have to enjoy their best game of the young 2014 season.

LG Greg Robinson vs. MLB K.J. Wright

The loss of starting middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a significant one for the Seahawks, as he’s the team’s steadiest run-defender (at least among linebackers) and a terrific open-field tackler. The 6-4, 246-pound Wright’s length and closing speed make him also very effective in this manner but he’s used to avoiding would-be blockers with his agility and shoving off of them with his long arms. Wright’s height can be a detriment as he loses the leverage battle, at times, something that the 6-0, 241-pound Wagner handles well.

The transition from left tackle at Auburn to left guard hasn’t gone as smoothly as some expected for Robinson but the 6-5, 330 pounder is blessed with amazing physical gifts, including a combination of speed, power and tenacity rarely matched in the 14 years I’ve been scouting. It wasn’t at all surprising to see Robinson get selected No. 2 overall (behind consensus top prospect Jadeveon Clowney) and last week against the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson earned his first start, faring quite well against stud defensive end Justin Smith.

Like any rookie, Robinson is going to struggle at times against Seattle’s speedy, albeit undersized pass rush. What makes Robinson special, however, is his ability to release from the line of scrimmage and latch onto linebackers. Scouts look for offensive linemen who can “maul” defenders. Robinson is one of the best I’ve seen in this capacity; he’s a virtual grizzly bear on the field.

If Robinson is able to get to Wright consistently, huge running lanes are going to open up for a Rams’ rushing attack that features several talented backs, not the least of which is incumbent starter Zac Stacy and Robinson’s former teammate at Auburn, fellow rookie Tre Mason.

Legion of Boom vs. Rams’ receivers

Given that it is Austin Davis, a former undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss – and not a more established quarterback like Sam Bradford, one might expect that the Seahawks could easily control the Rams’ quarterback.

Davis has been relatively successful thus far this season, leading some impressive long scoring drives. He’s a gutty player with just enough arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to surprise – especially with former high-round picks at receiver like Brian Quick and Tavon Austin starting to take advantage of their size (Quick is 6-4) and speed (Austin is a legitimate 4.3 guy).

Richard Sherman is, of course, a star. I believe that Tharold Simon – who is slated to see his first regular season action vs. St. Louis – has the talent to emerge as one, as well. Veteran Marcus Burley, however, may be the safer option to start. Between Seattle’s corners and their terrific safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, it is incumbent on the vaunted Legion of Boom to not only snuff out any semblance of a passing attack for St. Louis, they need to create some turnovers. The Legion of Boom has just two interceptions to this point in the season. Without at least another one in this game, the Seahawks could easily wind up losing their first divisional game of the year and wind up flying home with a very pedestrian 3-3 record.

Prediction: Seahawks 16 – Rams 13 Top Stories