All that competition and talk over who will be the new, strong-side linebacker replacing departed Bruce Irvin this season is becoming more moot by the game.
The snaps counts from Sunday’s win at the New York Jets showed the Seahawks were in nickel defense (five backs in the secondary) 87 percent of the time, or 62 of 71 plays. Sixty-two snaps how many nickel back Jeremy Lane played, with cornerback DeShawn Shead playing all of them.
That means Seattle was in its 4-3 base defense -- with a strong-side linebacker -- just 13 percent of Sunday’s game. That’s how much Mike Morgan played. Morgan won the summer competition over Cassius Marsh and others to become the new starting outside linebacker after Irvin signed in the spring with Oakland. Marsh, a rush end in passing situations, got 26 snaps against New York.
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But even though the Seahawks were facing a Jets team that entered Sunday averaging 130 yards rushing per game, Seattle stayed almost entirely in nickel. Part of the reason was Morgan is playing through an sports-hernia-like abdominal injury. And part of the reason was it worked. The Seahawks shut down New York’s rushing game with Matt Forte, limiting the Jets to 58 yards on 20 carries. That forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to rally the Jets with his passing, one week after he threw six interceptions at Kansas City. He threw three more to the Seahawks, including Richard Sherman’s first two interceptions of the season. New York targeted him seven times mostly with top wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Other snaps stuff from Sunday:
▪ C.J. Spiller had a good appearance-to-production ratio: nine snaps, two rushes for 12 yards, two catches on three targets and his first Seahawks touchdown.
▪ Tight end Jimmy Graham had 40 of the 60 snaps in his big day: six catches on eight targets for 113 yards, his second-most since joining Seattle last year. But he could have -- should have -- had much more.
Seattle had a mysterious end of the third quarter offensively. After getting to the Jets 30-yard line on a 12-yard catch by Graham, the Seahawks took him off the field for third down in the red zone -- the situation for which they traded two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round pick to get Graham from New Orleans last year. Russell Wilson had to throw that pass away and settle for Steven Hauschka field goal and a 17-10 lead instead of a two-score one.
On the next drive, Seattle again had third down, this time from their own 16. Graham was on the field, then after the Seahawks called time out to avoid a penalty for delay of game the tight end was on the sidelines. Wilson was again forced to throw his pass away to avoid a sack.
Whatever, Graham says. Asked if he thinks this is he re-introduction into Seattle’s offense in his second season and four games into his return from major knee surgery, the tight end said following Sunday’s game: “No, I’m just trying to do my job. I’m just blessed to be on that field with my guys. It’s been such a long road for me, and to finally be a part of what this team has going on and truly be a part of it feels amazing.”
▪ Tyler Lockett had only 14 snaps on offense and returned two punts for eight yards on six special-teams plays. The Seahawks continue to restrict him because of his sprained knee. We hope to learn some more about that when coach Pete Carroll talks this afternoon, but this week’s bye will help Lockett before Seattle plays again Oct. 16 against Atlanta.