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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Danny Kelly from Field Gulls and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "The Seahawks' running game is now without both Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. Who is Seattle's next man up at the position, and do they have a track record this year?"
Danny: "Well, that’s a really great question. Pete Carroll and company have been very coy about who might get the lion’s share of the carries this week, but it’ll be between three players: Bryce Brown, Christine Michael, and Derrick Coleman. Brown seems like the most likely candidate to get most of the carries — he’s been on and off the Seahawks roster a few times this year as depth and does have probably the most game experience of the group (albeit with different teams), so I would expect that he’ll "start" and if he does well, he’ll probably be the guy. But, Carroll did mention that they’ll ride the hot hand so my guess is that Michael will get a shot at it too. He’s Seattle’s former 2nd round pick from 2013 but he really never caught on in the offense and was traded over to the Cowboys before the season started for a conditional seventh round pick. He did not stay too long in Dallas and then ended up in Washington before landing back here this week. He’s one of those frustratingly gifted athletes that, for whatever reason, hasn’t quite been able to put it together to make an impact. I think Seattle fans would obviously hope that his time bouncing around has humbled him and he’s ready to become a ‘pro’.
One other guy might factor in — Derrick Coleman. He has been a fullback with the Seahawks in his time here but is a former college running back (UCLA) so he could end up being someone that gets some carries. Overall, no one really knows what to expect with the Seahawks run game, to be honest."
Chris: "Given what you've seen the Seahawks do without Jimmy Graham, if the possibility existed of him coming back tomorrow, would you love to have him back in the offense? Either way, could you elaborate why the offense seems to be catching fire since his departure?"
Danny: "Absolutely would love to have him back. He had really caught on and started fitting into the Seattle offense by the time he hurt his knee and was becoming one of Russell Wilson’s most trusted and targeted receivers. He gives Seattle a big target up the middle of the field that they don’t really have without him, and it will hurt, in my opinion, not having him as a big redzone threat (even though he hadn’t emerged as one by the time he got hurt).
The offense has really caught fire because of a few reasons, I think. One, Russell Wilson is absolutely dialed in right now. He’s seeing the field well, he’s delivering the ball with a ton of accuracy, and he’s throwing the ball with a lot of confidence. Two, the offensive line is playing a lot better, and giving him the time to make his throws. Three, the receivers have really stepped up and are catching the ball really well. And finally, four, Seattle has adapted their offense a little bit as the year’s gone on to include more quick throws and are using some route concepts to help Wilson get the ball out more quickly. This all has helped him get into better rhythms during games and it’s been a big part of why he’s just out there throwing it all over the place. Hopefully that keeps going this week."
Chris: "Former Browns DL Ahtyba Rubin has been with the Seahawks all year. How much does he typically play per week, and how well has he played?"
Danny: "Pete Carroll actually took time to praise Rubin this week. His words: 'I think he's been the most effective guy playing 3-technique that we've had. Just the most consistent. He just won't budge. The harder it gets, the tougher he gets. The more he ain't going to move anywhere. That position in our defense -- we play a lot of over defenses --€" he's on the tight end side of the lot, and there's a lot of plays that go right at him, and he gets doubled a bunch, and he's fantastic at doing that. He has been instrumental.'
So, obviously, he’s been viewed as a success by the Seahawks’ FO and while he mostly just does the dirty work without getting much notice (he’s a base-down run situation guy), he’s been solid. He’ll play about half of Seattle’s snaps in any given game."
Chris: "What is the closest thing to a weakness that the Seahawks' defense has had in 2015?"
Danny: "For some reason they’ve had a really tough time defending tight ends this season. In each one of their five losses, an opposing tight end has scored a fourth-quarter touchdown so Gary Barnidge is going to be a player that Seattle fans are going to focus in on. Seattle’s primarily cover-3 defense allows some stuff to get open up the seams and if Johnny Manziel can deliver Barnidge the football on time downfield, he could be in for a big game. it also does not help that Kam Chancellor is questionable going into this game, and that would mean that a little-used backup in Kelcie McCray might be called upon in that area of the field. It has the makings of a big vulnerability.
That said, Seattle’s cleaned that up a little bit in the past few weeks so maybe they figured out what was going on. There was also some communication issues with Cary Williams that was contributing to this issue, and he’s since been benched then released."
Chris: "Tell us about a player on Seattle who Browns fans might not know about but who has played a fairly key role for them this season."
Danny: "Center Patrick Lewis. Lewis started the season on the bench after Seattle named the inexperienced Drew Nowak their starter at that spot, but Lewis won back the starting job after five weeks of really poor play from Nowak and the entire line in general. Since Lewis has taken over there, though, there’s been marked improvement across the board and he’s seemed to be a real catalyst for that. The coaching staff has talked a lot about how his communication has improved greatly from last year (where he started a few games in relief of an injured Max Unger), and he’s getting the right protections and line calls made. He’s been solid in the run game and a good pass protector. There’s a real feeling that he could be a long-term starter at that spot, so his emergence has been absolutely huge for Seattle.
Keep an eye on him and the offensive line in general, because if Wilson has time to throw, based on what we’ve seen the past few weeks, that could be a very good thing for Seattle."
Thanks again to Danny for taking the time to answer my questions.