The Giants this week will play the first of three consecutive home games when they meet the Seattle Seahawks in MetLife Stadium. Seattle is 1-3 with a victory over Arizona and losses to San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. The Seahawks have lost 10 of their last 11 games in the Eastern time zone, including once this season. They have been outscored in the first half this season, 67-13, but have a 45-30 advantage in the final two quarters – and two of those late touchdowns were given up by the special teams. The Giants lead the series that began in 1976, 9-5. They have won the last two games by a combined score of 85-13 – 44-6 here in 2008 and 41-7 last Nov. 7 in Seattle. The Seahawks are a tough, improving team; only 10 players remain from when Coach Pete Carroll took over prior to the 2010 season.
The Seahawks have struggled to get their attack moving this season. They are 32nd in the NFL in total yards, averaging 254.0 yards a game. Seattle is 31st in rushing yards (67.5) and 28th in passing (186.5). The Seahawks are 29th in the league with an average of 14.5 points per game. Seattle has a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who spent the previous five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Seattle has 10 new offensive starters since playing the Giants last season.
Perhaps the most important newcomer is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who played for Bevell in Minnesota, where he won two of three starts against the Giants. Last week, Jackson threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 319 yards in a two-point loss to Atlanta. This is the first time Jackson has been assured that the starting job is his, and that job security is likely a reason for his weekly improvement. Jackson is particularly good at running a no-huddle attack. He is athletic, he has the arm to make all the throws and he passes well on the move. The backup is Charlie Whitehurst, who made his first NFL start vs. the Giants last season and completed 12 of 23 passes for 113 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Marshawn Lynch is best known for his 69-yard run for the ages through the New Orleans defense in last season's playoffs. But he is a complete back with excellent vision and the power to run over defenders. Lynch is also a good receiver and is strong on blitz pickup. At 5-9, Justin Forsett is a terrific change-of-pace back who can run and catch. Leon Washington has played little from scrimmage, but he is always dangerous with the ball in his hands. Fullback Michael Robinson is a former Penn State quarterback. He is a solid blocker with receiving skills. Robinson is also the Seahawks' gadget guy – if they run an unusual play, it will likely involve Robinson, who last year took snaps in the wildcat.
The Seahawks have a good group of receivers led by Sidney Rice, who played with Jackson and under Bevell in Minnesota. Rice was a 2009 Pro Bowler, but he missed much of last season with a hip injury. He has recovered well, as evidenced by his 52-yard touchdown reception last week. Rice is a big, strong wideout with a large strike zone. Rice separates well, he's a quick cutter and a strong runner after catching the ball. Seattle likes to use him on go screens. Mike Williams is another receiver with good size. He is a big downfield target who uses his size to his advantage. But Williams suffered a concussion last week, so his availability for Sunday will likely be determined later in the week. The Seahawks' leader in receptions with 12 is Doug Baldwin, an undrafted rookie from Stanford who caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in his NFL debut in San Francisco. Baldwin lines up in the slot, where he is a quick and courageous pass-catcher with good quickness. He's also a tough blocker. Ben Obomanu has seen his playing time decrease but he is a reliable intermediate target with good straight-line speed. Golden Tate could also get some snaps.
Seattle lost tight end John Carlson for the season because of shoulder surgery. But Carlson went down after the Seahawks had already signed Zach Miller, a free agent from the Raiders who caught 60 passes and played for the AFC Pro Bowl team last season. Miller missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury. As his numbers suggest, Miller is a very good underneath receiver. Anthony McCoy is also a good pass-catcher, though he is more of a vertical threat than Miller.
The Seahawks have a revamped and competitive offensive line that is stocked with heavy bodies. But because it is so young, it remains a work in progress. Russell Okung, last year's first-round draft choice, was limited to 10 games as a rookie because of ankle injuries, but has all the tools to be a top-tier left tackle. Career backup Paul McQuistan has stepped in at left guard for the injured Robert Gallery and has played extremely well. A six-year pro, McQuistan is the veteran of the line and is tough, smart and powerful. Center Max Unger is a former guard who missed 15 games last year with a toe injury. He is quick and athletic and is a solid all-round player. The right side of the line is staffed by two rookies. The guard is third-round draft choice John Moffitt, a powerful player in the run game and sturdy anchor in pass protection. First-round draft choice James Carpenter started the season opener at left guard before moving to right tackle. He is a 321-pounder who plays with a mean streak. Breno Giacomini started the opener at right tackle and is now used as extra lineman. At 6-7, he has the size to wall off defenders.
The defense has five new starters and plays hard no matter what the score is. Seattle is ranked 13th in the NFL in yards allowed at 341.5 a game. The Seahawks are 14th in rushing defense by allowing 105.0 yards a game on the ground (but third by giving up only 3.2 yards per carry) and 16th in pass defense with 236.5 yards yielded per game. They are tied for 18th in points allowed (24.3 a game).
Defensive end Red Bryant missed last year's Giants game because he tore his MCL the previous week. He is an unusual end because he is a powerful point of attack player and excellent run defender who can't be blocked with a tight end. Left end Chris Clemons is the Seahawks' best pass rusher and leads the team with 2.0 sacks after posting a career-high 11.0 last year. Instinctive in the run game, Clemons uses his speed to run down quarterbacks. Tackle Alan Branch is another big, heavy player. Fifth-year starter Brandon Mebane is squatty, powerful and tough to block. Ten-year veteran reserve Raheem Brock is good at anticipating the snap count and is explosive off the ball. Anthony Hargrove comes on in the sub packages, though a hamstring injury suffered in the fourth quarter last week leaves his status for the Giants in doubt. Clinton McDonald, who arrived in a trade from Cincinnati, plays in the heavy package and does a good job of getting under the center and making a mess at the line of scrimmage.
Middle linebacker David Hawthorne led Seattle with 105 tackles last season. He is instinctive against the run and good in coverage of tight ends. On the strong side, Leroy Hill is a physical presence, strong tackler and skilled blitzer. He has been playing exceptionally well. Rookie K.J. Wright and Aaron Curry have split time on the weak side. Wright started the opener for Hawthorne (knee injury) and took over on the outside two weeks ago vs. Arizona. He plays hard and fast and has good ball awareness. Curry, a first-round draft choice in 2009, plays both linebacker and pass-rushing tackle in the sub defenses. He is a fast, exceptionally powerful player with good lateral quickness along the line of scrimmage.
The strength of the secondary is at safety. Earl Thomas, last year's top draft choice, is this season's leading tackles (26, 18 of them solo). He is instinctive and quick, yet strong enough to play in the box. Thomas always seems to be running around the field and making plays. Strong safety Kam Chancellor missed last week's game with a quad injury. He is a physical run player who is tough for tight ends to deal with. Atari Bigby, a free agent signee from Green Bay, started last week for Chancellor. He is a smart blitzer with ball skills. Rookie Jeron Johnson played last week in the sub packages.
Left cornerback Marcus Trufant was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and has 21 career interceptions. He is a savvy, disciplined veteran with good movement skills. At 6-4 and 221 pounds, Brandon Browner is one of the NFL's biggest cornerbacks. He is a physical press corner who disrupts a receiver's timing. Nickel corner Walter Thurmond has long arms and throws his body around. Rookie Richard Sherman is very fast and plays in some sub defenses.
The Giants seem to face a dangerous return specialist every game and this week is no exception. Leon Washington helps his team as both a kickoff returner (he is second in history with seven touchdowns, including three last year, and a 22.2-yard average this season) and on punts (a 10.4-yard average, including a 33-yarder this year). Punter John Ryan leads the NFL with 1,236 punting yards, including a 77-yarder. He is also capable of throwing a pass as a punter or holder. Kicker Steve Hauschka was claimed off waivers after being let go by Denver. He has made three of four field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. The Seahawks lost their best coverage player when backup linebacker Matt McCoy was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered last week.
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