There really aren’t many differences personnel-wise in the Seahawks defense in 2012 compared to a season ago. As Redskins fans recall-- or chose to forget because of how dismal that season was-- these Seahawks comprise most of the same players that gave up 314 yards and two touchdowns to Rex Grossman.
Of course, Grossman did manage to throw two interceptions in that game too because, well, of course he did. But more on that later.
With much respect to the seasons guys like Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Okung have had, the defense is how Seattle earned its money this year. And it starts with a big, physical, shutdown secondary led by Richard Sherman, who was easily the most dominant cornerback of the 2012 season. Sherman tallied eight interceptions on the year, but more impressive is that quarterbacks have a rating of 40.1 when throwing his way this season. That's Darrelle Revis territory.
This is concerning for the Redskins because throwing in the Pistol offense does not allow the receivers as much time to develop their routes as say, throwing from the shotgun. In other words, timing of the routes is crucial, and these big Seattle corners have been able to get good jams on their receivers this season. Those disruptions could spell trouble for Robert Griffin III, but on the other hand, RG3 has done some pretty special things this season when he’s had to extend plays.
A lot of that timing will also depend on the Seahawks pass-rush, which has gotten results not only from a dominant coverage unit, but from its own merits.
Chris Clemons has easily been the Seahawks’ best lineman this season, leading an aggressive unit in both sacks and hurries. The Redskins aren’t unfamiliar with him though, and neither is Trent Williams, who had his best game of 2011 when they marched into Seattle. In that contest, Clemons was neutralized by the Redskins’ Pro-Bowler, and didn’t tally so much as a hurry in that game when lined up across from him.
The wild-card in this game is Bruce Irvin, who presents one huge difference in the Seahawks personnel this year. The first-round pass rusher hasn’t been an every-down guy this year, but he’s been extremely effective in a limited role as evidenced by his 10 sacks on the season. Irvin is a lighter, shiftier breed of pass-rusher who can get to the quarterback, and I have to imagine that his quickness will be called upon more often than usual to counter the Redskins’ speedy signal caller.
But there is reason for the Redskins to feel encouraged in this game. While Seattle isn’t “bad” against play action passes this season, they have allowed nearly eight yards per attempt on such calls. That’s been the Redskins’ bread and butter all season, and if Alfred Morris gets going, this offense gets going.
Another reason to feel encouraged is-- believe it or not-- Rex Grossman. I'm not saying that his success guarantees the Redskins' offense will fare better than they did last year, but opportunities should be there this time around for an offense that has often capitalized.
Grossman found a lot of openings when he had time to throw during last season’s matchup-- and get this-- actually converted on some of these. But to be fair, it's worth noting on one such instance that he inexplicably hurled a bomb into triple coverage, and Richard Sherman too-easily picked it out of the air.
And with Bad Rex came Good Rex, who had time to throw throughout the game. He found his tight end, Fred Davis, often for big chunks of yardage, and also lofted a 50-yard touchdown to Anthony Armstrong, who was able to overcome good coverage from Brandon Browner and corral a perfectly placed ball in the end zone.
The big play was not something the Redskins got much of in 2011, but 2012 is an entirely different story. And with a marquee offense versus a marquee defense set to square off on Sunday, you can say that goes for both teams.