In Week 8 of the NFL season, probably one of the most underrated games on the slate this Sunday is the Cleveland Browns traveling to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks. After upsetting the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland will take on their second NFC West opponent for this season.
As someone who is also a fan of the Seahawks, I will try to make this review as unbiased as I can be (I said try). Seattle isn’t in the same tier in the NFC as the 49ers or the Philadelphia Eagles, but this team is better than what people think.
As much criticism as head coach Pete Carroll has (some of it’s deserved and some of it is unnecessary), he has done a good job getting the best out of his teams. Offensively and defensively, this team has talent.
Offensively, this is a top 10 unit in terms of efficiency. We all know about quarterback Geno Smith. People wrote him off and well you know the rest (he didn’t write back). He’s been playing solid football for Seattle and has provided some stability at the position. Running back Kenneth Walker & Zach Charbonnet will be a formidable running back duo down the road, and the wide receiver trio of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith Njigba will cause problems.
Wide receiver Jake Bobo is also someone to watch out for. Despite being banged up at certain positions, the Seahawks offensive line is a solid group.
Defensively, this unit is vastly improved from last season. Like the Browns, Seattle’s run defense has vastly improved. Both Cleveland and Seattle were towards the bottom in Run Defense EPA per play last season. This season both teams are ranked in the top 10: 4th and 8th.
The defensive line doesn’t have a bonafide star like Cleveland does with Myles Garrett but this unit has quality. Saint Ignatius star and former Ohio State Buckeye defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones is in the Pacific Northwest now, and Jarran Reed is having a monster year after returning to the team that drafted him in 2016.
Fan favorite and Seahawks legend Bobby Wagner returns to Seattle after spending a year with the Los Angeles Rams to help lead the linebacker room with Jordyn Brooks (who Seattle drafted in 2020 to replace Wagner). Cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon are slowly emerging as a top-10 cornerback duo while safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams are an underrated safety duo.
Here are the 4 players to watch for from the Seahawks this week:
RB Kenneth Walker III
When Seattle drafted Kenneth Walker in the 2021 NFL Draft, many were wondering why Seattle made that decision. Considering the health of running backs Chris Carson (who eventually retired due to neck issues) and Rashaad Penny, Seattle ended up choosing the former Michigan State Spartan.
Safe to say, it has paid dividends. In his rookie season, Walker rushed for over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Seattle ranks in the top 10 in rushing EPA/per play and Walker is one of the many reasons for that.
Most missed tackles forced on runs this season:— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 24, 2023
Travis Etienne - 32
Kenneth Walker - 32 pic.twitter.com/b8arqfhnck
Walker has immense talent, whether it is his strength to break tackles or reach that second gear when he gets to the second level. His running style from last year has changed this year, and it’s evident if you watch him.
Last season, Walker would tend to emulate Le’Veon Bell in terms of patience and waiting for the hole to open up but Bell doesn’t have the burst that Walker has. Cleveland’s run defense got a bit of a test last week against Indianapolis and this week it will be tested yet again.
LB Jordyn Brooks
Shifting to the defensive side of the ball, one player that people should keep a close eye on is Brooks. After suffering a torn ACL last season, Brooks looks rejuvenated and it shows in the film. Brooks was originally drafted to be the successor for Wagner. Brooks has had his ups and downs during his career but this season he is playing with a point to prove. While, Brooks is coming off a torn ACL and he’s playing at a high level.
It's so fun to watch Jordyn Brooks when he's covering ground like this. Played like a disciplined maniac in the second half for Seahawks. pic.twitter.com/STX21hmRI9— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) October 23, 2023
His sideline-to-sideline speed has been impressive, he has been stout in coverage and has made numerous plays when called upon. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if Seattle were to try to extend him if he continues to play at a high level. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, he played arguably one of his best games in his career and was making multiple plays.
Cleveland’s offense will have to be wary of Brooks, he has the ability to come up big when necessary.
LB Boye Mafe
If there is one player on Seattle’s defense that Browns fans should worry about (just a little bit) it’s Mafe. Considering how linebacker Uchenna Nwosu is lost for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle, Mafe becomes the best edge rusher on the team. Going back to the preseason, Mafe showed signs that he was due for a breakout season. Mafe ranks 12th in pass rush win rate, 9th in win rate in terms of true pass sets and he leads the team in sacks. If you watch the tape, you can see how impactful he has been.
This swipe/rip combo by Boye Mafe against Paris Johnson is a thing of beauty. He beat the first-round pick back-to-back plays with the same combo counters, single-handedly destroying a potential scoring drive before halftime. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/XvjCcKwLut— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) October 23, 2023
Mafe shows quickness and burst off the edge in his pass rush, and he has been stout against the run which was something that he excelled at when he was at the University of Minnesota.
Cleveland’s pass protection has been solid for the past two weeks but this week it will be tested. Mafe has the ability to make a play and Jed Wills and Dawand Jones will have to be prepared for it. Mafe will likely be lined up on the left side with Nwosu being out (he could line up on the right) and is someone to watch closely.
CB Devon Witherspoon
When the Seahawks drafted cornerback Devon Witherspoon in this past draft, many believed that this was the wrong pick considering how current Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter was right there. Seattle opted to take University of Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon at pick #8. Has it paid off? DJ, play the track.
Oh wait, there’s more.
Despite not playing at all in the preseason due to a hamstring injury and missing the first game of the season, Witherspoon has emerged as a contributor in this Seattle secondary. He’s been solid in run defense and he’s been solid in run coverage as well. When you go back to the Legion of Boom, their secondary played with a certain level of physicality. Witherspoon fits that mold. Sticky in coverage, good range and the ability to lay the boom if needed.
Witherspoon is in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation, rightfully so and he’s only going to get better.
For Cleveland, I would advise you to tread carefully around Witherspoon. He can get over-aggressive at times which Cleveland should take advantage of but last week he had a sack and an interception that were negated by penalties. He’s that dude and Cleveland needs to keep an eye on Spoon.
What Seahawks player are you most interested (or scared about) watching this Sunday? Join the conversation in our comment section below