Saturday, September 10, 2011

Seahawks Open the 2011 Season Against the 49ers

(Photo Courtesy of @RGray525)

The NFL season is finally upon us! In about 30 hours, the Seahawks will kick off the season against the 49ers in San Francisco. I don’t know about you all, but I’m SO pumped for this game.

The story lines going into this game are just about the same ones that the team has been facing all preseason long. How will Tarvaris Jackson do? How will the offensive line hold up? Will the defense step things up? I won’t bore you all with yet another rehash of the QB situation, so I’ll just get into the other issues.

The offensive line is perhaps the biggest question mark going into the season aside from the obvious QB situation. If things were questionable before, they’ve gotten even more murky with the injury left guard Robert Gallery. Gallery hurt his knee in the final preseason game and is doubtful for tomorrow’s game.
The injury to Gallery means that the whole line is pretty much getting shifted around now. Russel Okung will be back at left tackle, James Carpenter is moving over to left guard to take Gallery’s place, Max Unger stays at center, John Moffitt is staying at right guard and Breno Giacomini will be at right tackle. Got all that?

Things haven’t exactly been stable so far with the line, but things looked better in the last preseason game, so I’d expect them to keep on getting better as they start to get chemistry together. Giacomini will definitely be a person to keep an eye on in this game. Raheem Brock was quoted at practice saying that he’s irritated by Breno, but in a good way. So it sounds like he creates problems for opposing defenses. Which isn’t too surprising considering the fact that he’s 6’7” and weighs 318 pounds. So look for him to make an impact out there tomorrow.

Sticking with the offense, Sidney Rice is also doubtful for tomorrow’s game as he’s still dealing with a bum shoulder. It’s the same shoulder that kept him out of the preseason opener way back on August 11 in San Diego. With his history of injuries, this was definitely a cause for concern, but Pete Carroll has assured everyone that this shoulder injury is not like John Carlson’s season ending one. Rice could be back by next week.

With Rice out, though, Mike Williams should get more passes thrown his way, as he looks to continue to improve this season. Tight end Zach Miller should also benefit from Rice, as well as Carlson, being out. Look for both of these guys to establish their presence early on.
I’d also like to see Golden Tate have a good game this week. He had a great performance last week against the Raiders in the final preseason game, and I’m sure he wants to continue that success into the season. Being that he’s been considered somewhat of a bust thus far in his career, now is the time for him to step up his game.

Looking at the backfield, Marshawn Lynch is slated to have a breakout season this year. If he picks up where he left off last season, he could be the Seahawks first 1,000 yard rusher since Shaun Alexander. I definitely believe that he will be a pivotal part of the offense this year. If he gets going, they could get a good play action going, and with weapons like Rice, Williams, and Miller, that would be a deadly combo.

The defense has got a few question marks of its own going into the season as well. Both linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) and defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle) are probable for tomorrow’s game. It sounds like Hawthorne may be good to go by game time, but he probably won’t start. The team has been prepping rookie K.J. Wright to start in Hawthorne’s place at the middle linebacker position. I’m confident that Wright will do well in that spot, if called on to start since he’s shown nothing but good things throughout camp and preseason. Clemons tweaked his ankle during a walk-thru on Thursday, and has not practiced since. Carroll insists that he will be available to play tomorrow, though.

So far, the defense has looked pretty solid. Besides Wright, I expect cornerback Brandon Browner to excel in his position as well. He will be starting across from Marcus Trufant tomorrow. He’s another one who has shown nothing but good things in preseason. At 6’4” and 221 pounds, he’s for sure one of the tallest corners to play the game. So look for him to be good out there.
Keeping with the secondary, safety Kam Chancellor should have a great year as well. He’s looked great in camp and preseason so far, and I don’t expect that to change now. He will be one to watch for during this season.

Red Bryant is another guy to watch out for to see how he’ll in his first regular season start since his season-ending injury in week 8 of last season. He will be a pivotal component in the attempts to stop 49er running back Frank Gore from having a hug game. Gore is a tough running back who will fight for every yard, and Bryant is the perfect counter to that kind of guy. Look for him to pick up where he left off last season when the Seahawks run defense was one of the best ranked run defenses in the league prior to his injury.

Now for my quick predictions. Contrary to the belief of most people out there, I think the Seahawks will pull out a win in the season opener tomorrow. Red Bryant and the defense will work wonders in stopping Frank Gore from having a big game. The secondary will shut down Alex Smith. Tarvaris Jackson won’t have a huge game, but he will be adequate enough to pull out a win. Marshawn Lynch will struggle a bit against the 49ers tough run defense, but will also do just enough to help squeak out a win here.

Final prediction: Seahawks 24 - 49ers 20

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