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Imagine the way discussion leading up to Sunday’s Seahawks vs. Cardinals game would be different if it was the Steelers, 49ers or Ravens defense stepping on the field instead of the Seahawks. There would still be all the same questions about Russell Wilson starting his first game and whether Marshawn Lynch would be healthy enough to play, but would anyone really doubt the outcome? Not likely. Those defenses are the best in football and no matter how dysfunctional the offense was, the Cardinals would never score enough points to win the game. The Seahawks defense wants to be mentioned in the same breath with best. Step one will be winning this game on Sunday on their own.
Understand this is not assuming the Seahawks offense will be a disaster this weekend. Instead, it is about the Seahawks defense growing up and suffocating an opponent unable to fight back. Seattle enters the game with a healthy defense and faces an offensive line that is wracked with injury and inexperience. John Skelton may prove to be an acceptable quarterback, but will certainly not be one of the top ten players this defense faces at the position this season.
Eleven of the twelve Seahawks starters on defense played the same role on the team a season ago. There are new additions to the pass rush that must show up immediately. Jason Jones, Bruce Irvin, and maybe even Jaye Howard (with Greg Scruggs) need to get theirs this game. People want to believe great pass rushers get their sacks evenly across the season. They often get them in bunches against overmatched opponents. This is one of those games.
The Cardinals will almost certainly run max protection on many pass plays where they keep in a tight end and a running back to help block. Their hope will be that Larry Fitzgerald will be able to make up for the loss of receiving options, and it is a fair bet. Seahawks fans have become accustomed to seeing a quarterback sit back in the pocket patting the ball and scanning the field until someone finally comes open. Gus Bradley may choose to drop a bunch of players into coverage from the get-go. This will be another area the team needs to show growth.
I have not been able to find a site that tracks how many sacks a team got when rushing only three men, but Seattle had to have been near the bottom. Rushing three men should mean it is harder to get to the passer, and may take longer. It should not mean the quarterback gets indefinite time to make a throw. Jones will be a major part of combating that issue.
The Cardinals were 28th in the NFL in turnovers, 24th in scoring, and 24th in rushing yards last season. There is no credible case to be made for why they should be better this year. The Seahawks did not lose a game last season when they held the opposing quarterback under a 70.0 passer rating. Skelton should not sniff that if the defense does its part.
An acceptable outcome would be 9 points or less, 270 total yards or less, six quarterback hits, and at least two turnovers. It is time for this defense to eliminate the hope of victory from opponents. If Wilson or Lynch are the storyline on Sunday, than the defense has not done its job.