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Vision Board: Seahawks-Cardinals, The Rematch
Seaside Joe 1341: How Noah Fant, Al Woods, and Tariq Woolen play a part in Seattle's Week 9 contest
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was asked this week whether or not he had to prepare rookies for this game any differently than in the previous eight weeks, because it will be the first time that most of them have played the same team twice in one year. Carroll wouldn’t get into specifics but confirmed that preparation for NFC West rematches is indeed a little different, but also that both teams will have the same advantages and disadvantages based on the intel of playing each other just three weeks ago.
During Carroll’s tenure with the Seahawks, Seattle has swept the Cardinals three times, been swept by Arizona zero times, and went 0-1-1 in the series in 2016. The three times that the Seahawks swept the Cardinals:
2010-Ken Whisenhunt’s Cards were 5-11 and Seattle’s two wins over quarterback Derek Anderson (and partly Max Hall) helped them win the NFC West at 7-9
2014-Bruce Arians’ Cards were 11-5, but the Seahawks never had to face Carson Palmer, the quarterback who was 6-0 that season. Instead, Seattle swept Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley. Those games were the difference between winning the NFC West or handing it to the Cardinals.
2018-Steve Wilks’ Cards were 3-13 as Seattle went 2-0 against Josh Rosen.
Much like leap years, the Olympics, and the World Cup, perhaps the Seahawks sweeping the Cardinals is just something we see every four years.
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Seattle is coming off of an encouraging 19-9 stomping of the Cardinals in which Arizona failed to score an offensive point after an opening-drive field goal. On the Cardinals next nine drives, they punted four times, turned it over on downs three times, fumbld it once, and Kyler Murray threw an interception to Tariq Woolen.
But beating Murray twice is much different than sweeping Derek Anderson and Josh Rosen. Especially with the return of DeAndre Hopkins sparking Arizona’s offense in the two games since. What’s on tap for Seaside Joe’s three visions in the rematch?
In last week’s vision board against the New York Giants, I’m going to say Seaside Joe went ~1.5 out of 3:
Seahawks have a key goal line stand (Vision: MID) The only thing that could have qualified as a goal line opportunity for the defense was New York’s two-yard drive following the Tyler Lockett fumble. Seattle stopped Saquon Barkley on first down, but not on second down. However, the Seahawks only allowed the Giants to creep back into the red zone one other time (FG forced) and the defense had one of their best performances of the season.
Will Dissly scores twice (Vision: ACCOMPLISHED) Dissly didn’t even score once and he only had two catches for 12 yards. But the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week scored two turnovers (FF, FR) and that’s even bigger.
Charles Cross leads offensive line to clean game for Geno (Vision: MID) Geno was sacked three times for losses totaling 22 yards. But Smith was well protected enough to cap off his NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors and Cross was credited as one of Seattle’s best offensive players last week.
What’s in store of this week’s visions against the Cardinals? Tell me yours in the comments, I’m giving out free subs to the Regular Joes premium section to new seasiders all week! (Only applies if you’re not already signed up!)
My last vision board against the Cardinals went only one-of-three, with Murray getting sacked six times saving my day. What’s worth envisioning in the rematch?
Tariq Woolen haunts Kyler Murray again
A lot has been made about the return of DeAndre Hopkins, and rightfully so. The Cardinals are 9-3 over the last two seasons with Hopkins, 5-9 without him. In two games back this year, Hopkins has caught 22 of 27 targets for 262 yards and a touchdown, but he’s also been blamed for three drops already.
Still, not a single target at Hopkins in 2021 was intercepted, and in general only two targets between Murray and his number one receiver have been picked off over 28 games together.
Coincidentally, and somewhat unbelievably given the length of time that has passed, one of Hopkins’ teammates is intimately familiar with partaking in the coming out party of a Seahawks rookie cornerback: A.J. Green.
In Green’s seventh career game in 2011, he faced off against Richard Sherman in his first start with Seattle. Green was held to 4-of-10 receiving, gaining 63 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks lost 34-12, but Sherman picked off Andy Dalton and it would be years before Seattle lost another game by double digits. A new tone had been set on defense with young stars like Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Bobby Wagner.
The Seahawks are hoping for a repeat build on defense right now and Woolen’s been front-and-center to that project.
Covering Marquise Brown (now out) last time, Woolen had an interception, a fumble recovery, and he allowed four catches for only 28 yards. Covering Hopkins is a much different type of assignment, but the 6’4 Woolen is physically capable with his 4.26 speed and he’s shown a penchant for stepping up in the moment. Picking off the same quarterback in two different games in the same season is never easy, but Woolen’s setting a new standard for proving what’s possible.
Plus, he hasn’t had an interception since facing Murray, so I’d say he’s due.
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Fant-asia brings the broom
Last season, Seattle couldn’t get the run game going at all in their first meeting, losing 23-13 to Colt McCoy. The next time out, Rashaad Penny rushed for 190 yards and the Seahawks beat Murray 38-30. It’s difficult to project the second outcome based on the first outcome, let’s say that.
In Seattle’s victory, Russell Wilson dropped two touchdowns to Tyler Lockett, but also a third to Freddie Swain. Perhaps Geno Smith’s “surprise touchdown” this week doesn’t go to a number three receiver, but the number two tight end.
Since Rob Gronkowski became a known commodity—and realistically, in my opinion, an MVP candidate when healthy—teams have DESPERATELY tried to find another like him. That desperation leads to picking more receiving tight ends in the first round, which has led to T.J. Hockenson, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Kyle Pitts, O.J. Howard, Eric Ebron, Tyler Eifert, Hayden Hurst, and Fant… so far, nothing close to Rob Gronkowski, to put it another way.
The 20th overall pick in 2019 (coincidentally, five players drafted between 20-42 are on one of these two teams, including Fant, Marquise Brown, L.J. Collier, Trayvon Mullen, Drew Lock), Fant caught 40 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns. He had two 100-yard games (115, 113), but those were his only two games of the year with more than 60 yards.
In 39 games since, Fant’s yardage-best is 97 (vs Raiders in 2021), one of just three games in which he had more than 70 yards. I don’t mean to harp on just this one rudimentary statistic, but teams only draft tight ends in the first round because they’re expecting to get something like the equivalent of a number one receiver. Or a number two receiver with great blocking skills.
Fant has yet to prove to be a receiver or a blocker in the NFL.
But I’m gonna go out on a broomstick for Fant this week and say he’s the mystery standout against the Cardinals. We can no longer sit back and just hope that Fant shows improvement, we have to envision it.
Fant has caught 22 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown over eight games (season-pace: 47 catches, 374 yards) but he’s been invisible for about five of those starts. His season-best for catches though was six against the Cardinals, in which he gained 45 yards. I’m seeing over 60 yards and a touchdown from Noah Fant this week.
Al Woods leads run-stop shop vs. Arizona
You would assume that an air raid offense simply ignores the run game, but it’s quite the opposite. Kliff Kingsbury relies heavily on a strong rushing attack and the Cardinals rank 12th in rushing attempts, 17th in yards, and 20th in yards per carry.
Out of eight contests this year, Arizona has yet to be held under 70 rushing yards, but they’re 0-4 when they failed to gain at least 130 on the ground. The Cardinals are 3-1 when they rush for over 130 (I know, causation, correlation, blah blah blah) and their lone loss in that group is Week 6’s game against the Seahawks.
Seattle allowed the Cardinals to have a season-best 144 rushing yards, but there was one key player missing from the defense that day: Al Woods.
Woods had a veteran rest day on Thursday but should be ready to suit up on Sunday. The 35-year-old standout is only a share of one sack away from setting a new career-high already, but it would also be great to add his 330 lbs to the middle of the run defense this time against Arizona.
After giving up at least 100 yards in each of their first six contests (and at least 140 yards in five of those), the Seahawks have only given up 131 rushing yards total in their last two games, even though they just faced Saquon Barkley. I see another stout performance against the run, keeping Arizona under 70 yards, even though running back James Conner—out the last three weeks—has been practicing on a limited basis this week and could return.
That’s just how I see it. How do you see it?
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