RENTON – The Seattle Seahawks’ makeshift offensive line will be tested this afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
Today’s opponent, the Washington Redskins, have two of the more explosive pass rushers in the league in outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Orakpo was selected No. 13 overall in the 2009 draft by Washington – nine picks after Seattle nabbed linebacker Aaron Curry at No. 4 overall. Seattle traded Curry to Oakland earlier this season.
Orakpo has been much more productive with Washington than Curry was with Seattle. Orakpo has recorded 25 sacks in just over 2 1/2 seasons. The University of Texas product has 5.5 sacks this season with two forced fumbles and 39 tackles.
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Washington added the perfect complement to Orakpo by selecting Kerrigan at No. 16 overall in this year’s draft. Kerrigan has a team-leading six sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown.
“They’ve got a lot of guys running around, with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo coming around the edges, and we’ve got some really good defensive linemen that put pressure on the quarterback,” said Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman said. “They also take away easy, quick throws. So if you can put pressure on the quarterback and take away some of those three-step drops or quick, five-step get-the-ball-out-quick routes, then you’ve got a chance to be successful.
“They don’t give up a lot of easy drop-back passes. That’s what we felt in training camp the whole time that it takes a while for routes to develop against this team.”
The Redskins have 31 sacks, tied for second overall in the NFL.
“With (defensive coordinator) Jim Haslett and the defensive side of the ball it’s very, very high-tech stuff and it’s very, very difficult,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re sacking more people than anybody in the league because they know how to attack you with their defense.”
The Seahawks have allowed 34 sacks this season, tied for second-most in the league. And they will be starting Paul McQuistan at right guard and Breno Giacomini at right tackle for the second straight week, with rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt out for the season with knee injuries.
But there are a couple of things Seattle can do to negate Washington’s explosive pass rush.
Seattle needs to keep running the ball effectively. Seattle has averaged 37 rushes the last three weeks, gaining a 136 yards a contest.
A steady diet of running back Marshawn Lynch could help slow down the Redskins’ pass rush.
A quick passing game could also help. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson needs to get the ball out of his hands before the pass rush gets to him. So you might see a return of the no-huddle offense Seattle used effectively earlier this season.
Seattle has faced a 3-4 defense five times this season, so familiarity should help in the team’s preparation.
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said it will be important for his offense linemen to make sure they can handle any type of pressure Washington brings so they can protect Jackson.
“Where we start is we have to be able to handle all the different looks they give us in protection so that when we start building the game plan – we look at that first,” Bevell said. “Where are our strengths going to be in our matchups? Where are our weaknesses going to be? How can we help those weaknesses become stronger? And do we rely on the strengths?
“All those different things, but you still have to be able to play ball and you can’t handcuff yourselves, so that’s always the challenge. Because they do have two great backers coming off the edge, it really does present some problems.”
Jackson says he has confidence in his offensive line getting the job done because Seattle already has faced talented pass rushers this season in such teams as the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They can rush the passer,” Jackson said. “They’re a tough defense, but we’ve faced some tough defense and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
WASHINGTON (3-7) AT SEATTLE (4-6)
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: This is the 15th regular-season meeting between the teams. Washington holds a 10-4 advantage, and has won five straight dating back to 2001. But Seattle is 2-0 against Washington in the playoffs, a 20-10 win at home in the 2005 playoffs, and a 35-14 victory at CenturyLink Field in the 2007 playoffs.
What to watch: Seattle likely will start a different front four defensively for the first time this season. Defensive tackle Alan Branch is a game-time decision due to an ankle injury, which means University of Memphis product Clinton McDonald could make his first career start today. Washington is averaging 84 yards a contest on the ground, third-worst in the league. Rookie cornerback Byron Maxwell is questionable with an ankle injury. Receivers Sidney Rice (knee) and Ben Obomanu (knee, ankle), and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) are all probable, along with safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) and defensive end Anthony Hargrove (hamstring). Kam Chancellor was fined $40,000 for a hard hit against defenseless St. Louis tight end Lance Kendricks at the end of last week’s game against the Rams, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty. It’s the second time Chancellor has been fined this season. Chancellor was fined $20,000 for a similar hit against Baltimore receiver Anquan Boldin.
The pick: Seahawks, 23-20.
With roster number, player's name, height/weight and experience in the league with position in parentheses:
15 Doug Baldwin (WR) 5-10/189, first season
Rookie out of Stanford should have single coverage with Washington dealing with Sidney Rice on the outside.
50 K.J Wright (LB) 6-4/246, first season
Rookie out of Mississippi needs to make sure he stays home against outside runs and gets depth in pass coverage.
68 Breno Giacomini (OT) 6-7/318, fourth season
Another week, another tough matchup for Giacomini, with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo coming off the edge for Washington.
92 Brandon Mebane (DT) 6-1/311, fifth season
Veteran defensive lineman will have to pick up the slack with Alan Branch out.
26 Josh Wilson (CB) 5-9/192, fifth season
Former Seahawks and explosive returner plays against the team that drafted him for the first time.
29 Roy Helu (RB) 5-11/219, first season
Speedy back out of Nebraska is tied for fourth among rookies with 29 receptions.
59 London Fletcher (LB) 5-10/245, 14th season
Team’s leading tackler sets the tone for Washington’s defense.
89 Santana Moss (WR) 5-10/205, 11th season
Cat-quick receiver returns from a hand injury and could cause matchup problems on the outside.