He said / she said — Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Jessica Ridpath
Sep 12, 2015 · 6 min read

The Hit Job editors Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week one matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams.

When: 10 a.m. PT Sunday, Sept. 13

Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.

Rogers: The Seahawks will start the 2015 season on the road at division rival St. Louis Rams. Both teams are sporting new personnel at key positions. None more so than the Rams, who shipped out quarterback Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Nick Foles.

Likewise, the Seahawks have undergone an offensive identity tweak (not a wholesale change) by virtue of trading for tight end Jimmy Graham and drafting the exciting, speedy rookie receiver Tyler Lockett from Kansas State. While the Seahawks are not expected to deviate from their run-heavy Beast Mode approach, more fireworks can be expected from their previously bottom-third passing game with these new additions.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, thanks to his four-year, $87.6 million contract extension, is locked up for years to come as one of the NFL’s most dangerous trigger men — and is perhaps even more lethal as a scrambler/runner. I’m looking forward to seeing how Wilson gets Graham and Lockett integrated into their offensive attack.

Jess, as a long-time follower of the Eagles, how do you see Foles changing the fortunes of the Rams, particularly in this matchup against the tough Seattle defense?

Ridpath: Foles posted some incredible numbers in his second season with the Eagles (27 touchdowns, 2 interceptions). But 2014 was a different story (13 TDs, 10 INTs), and we really haven’t seen enough of him since then to say whether his knack for throwing TDs and avoiding interceptions was a one-season fluke or a defining trait. The thing I worry about in Foles’ face-off with Seattle’s defense is his agility. Given time to throw, I don’t doubt that his accuracy and decision-making will be spot on. But if the Rams’ newly revamped offensive line isn’t consistently steadfast, we’ll likely see more lumbering than scrambling from the franchise-hopeful QB.

Julian, assuming Foles can get his passes off, do you think Seattle’s defense will be able to bring the heat it’s become known for without Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor at safety?

Rogers: Chancellor’s absence is a big factor in the Seahawks’ plans to continue their defensive dominance. While his loss is significant — both as a player and a locker room leader — I don’t agree with former Seahawk and current NFL Network analyst Heath Evans’ assertion that without Chancellor the Seahawks are going to slide to third place in the NFC West. Unless the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots moved into the division, that assertion is hooey. I don’t see enough improvement in the Rams or the other NFC West hopefuls to take the 2015 division crown away from the still-stacked (even without Kam) Seahawks.

At this point, Chancellor’s absence in week one is a given. Beyond that, I think his absence continues to signal the dismantling of the Legion of Boom. Do you see the LOB as a unit in decline?

Ridpath: I think it’s too early to suggest that the LOB will be anything but dominant. Had the Hawks not secured cornerback Cary Williams after losing Byron Maxwell to free agency, I think there’d be reason to speculate. But Williams’ size and physicality seem a perfect fit for Pete Carrol’s in-your-face secondary. Playing alongside LOB stars Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas I expect we’ll see more picks from Williams than the two he posted with the Eagles last year. I have no concerns about Thomas. Grounded for the preseason due to a shoulder injury sustained in the NFC Championship game, Thomas will almost certainly hit the field eager to prove he’s still got it.

That said, I’m not sure the Rams’ lackluster receiving corps — the second worst in the NFL in 2014 and largely unchanged — will be much of a test for Thomas and the LOB. Looking to the St. Louis run game, which they made a concerted effort to revitalize with No. 1 draft pick Todd Gurley, I think their prospects are equally grim against Seattle’s defense.

Julian, with Gurley on the shelf and fellow running back Tre Mason battling a hamstring injury, do the Rams have enough to present a credible running threat in week one?

Rogers: They better. You make a great point about the Rams’ receiving corps 1) not being very impressive and 2) not much changed. The intended change for the Rams’ passing game is all on the shoulders of Foles and the development of young receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin (both in their third years). Neither have done much and veteran Kenny Britt has probably hit his ceiling.

A robust running game would have been nice for the Rams. Scratch that — it was a must-have. With their No. 1 pick out for the foreseeable future and Mason a question mark, the running duties may very well be in the hands of holdover Benny Cunningham … he of the 3.7 yards per carry average (2014). That’s not going to send Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard searching for antacids.

If the Rams are going to have a credible running threat, it will come down to whether or not Mason is in the lineup. He only had 179 carries last season but did it with a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. That’s still a far cry from 29-year-old Marshawn Lynch’s 2014 average of 4.7 on 280 carries.

Speaking of Beast Mode, he’s got an entirely new supporting cast this season. How do you see the Seahawks’ running game shaping up with its new look and new offensive toy in Jimmy Graham?

Ridpath: It’s impossible not to get excited about Graham and how he enhances Seattle’s offense. But the fit will be tricky. Word on the street is that the Hawks are looking to Graham as much for his blocking as his catching. But Graham is really a receiver masquerading as a tight end — a tight end who, in his five years with the New Orleans Saints, didn’t do much blocking in the traditional sense. Thankfully, his sheer size is an asset to any run game. Put him in motion, and he is a lighting fast, 6-and-a-half-foot human shield.

But I’m not sure a heavy-on-blocking scenario will allow Graham to deliver the 10-plus yards per catch he banked as a Saint. The majority of Graham’s catches last season (54 of 85) came when he didn’t get caught up in the scuffle at the line of scrimmage. If Carroll doesn’t choreograph some open-space chances for Graham, he won’t mean as much to the offense as many are predicting.

In week one, though, I don’t think it will matter if Graham isn’t tapped for all he’s worth. To win, all Seattle needs is for the LOB to show up. Prediction: Seahawks 30, Rams 10.

Rogers: At season’s end, we may find the LOB back on top. To start against the Rams, I don’t think we’ll find them booming at top form — but that might not matter that much. This is the first season they’ll come out of the gate not only without Chancellor, but with Thomas and Sherman attempting to bounce back from injuries. What better tune-up for them than the woeful Rams’ passing attack and broken down rushing attack? The Seahawks’ offense may have it tougher against the Rams’ potent defense, but this looks like an easy win against a division opponent for the blue birds. I expect a heavy dose of Lynch with few significant snaps for the new backup running backs — unless this one becomes a laugher. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Rams 13.


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The Hit Job

humor | culture | football | trouble

Jessica Ridpath

Written by

Jessica is a writer, chauffeur, sock wrangler, and senior research communications consultant at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

The Hit Job

humor | culture | football | trouble

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