Seahawks Week: With Bernard suspended, Bills should run often

Welcome to "Seahawks Week", Rumblers!  In an effort to learn all that we can about the Buffalo Bills' season opening opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, we'll be joined once per day by John Morgan of Field Gulls throughout this week.  John is a superbly knowledgeable blogger when it comes to the X's and O's of the game, and he'll give us some excellent perspective on the Seahawks as a team heading into Sunday's tilt.  To see all posts related to Seahawks Week, click here.

We all know that the Seattle Seahawks have a top-flight defensive unit.  Their defensive backs and linebackers are active playmakers, and their pass rush is top notch.  However, once a position of strength along the line, the Seahawks are suddenly beat up at defensive tackle heading into Week 1.  The star of the unit, Rocky Bernard, is serving a one-game suspension, and veteran Larry Tripplett was released on cut-down day.  (OK... maybe that's addition by subtraction).

John Morgan drops by once again to discuss the situation on the inside as the Buffalo Bills prepare to release Marshawn Lynch at Seattle's (slightly weakened?) defense...

Buffalo Rumblings: What sort of effect does the suspension of Rocky Bernard have on the Seahawks' defensive plans for Sunday?

John Morgan, Field Gulls: Losing Bernard sucks, and for the Seahawks, exacerbates their run defense's worst weakness. Seattle will use Craig Terrill and rookie Red Bryant in a rotation at left defensive tackle. Terrill is a quick, penetrative one gap tackle that excels at disrupting rush lanes and pressuring the quarterback. For that, I've long held him in a high regard. He's the kind of second string player that makes a rotation work. Effective when played to his strengths, over an entire game, Terrill is a bit like a LOOGY forced into the rotation: possessing only half the skills needed to succeed. Seattle needs defensive tackles capable of rushing the passer, yes, but moreover capable of keeping blockers out of the second level.

For two years straight, Seattle has been susceptible to allowing long runs. In 2006, Seattle started the season with a healthy Marcus Tubbs. Through those first five games, Seattle allowed a run of 10 or more yards on only 7% of all plays. By season's end, that number had jumped to a staggering 29% of all plays. In 2007, the team rebounded a bit, allowing runs of 10 or more yards on 24% of all plays – still bad. But the Bernard, Brandon Mebane duo was stout. It was the Terrill, Howard Green second team unit that allowed embarrassing touchdown runs to Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams and Cedric Benson.

Bryant has the potential to keep blockers off Seattle's linemen, but as my recent review of his tape reveals, Bryant is a long, long way from being a consistent, capable defensive tackle.  Still, I don't expect a change in strategy, only results.

***

Sounds good to me.  If Seattle's not changing anything in the way of strategy, then Buffalo should be able to run fairly well on Sunday, Jason Peters or no Jason Peters.  Even with Bernard, I considered DT to be the weakness of Seattle's defense, and John's thoughts/data back that up.  Unless the Seahawks take a commanding lead in this one - and the chances of that seem unlikely, as the Bills almost always play teams close at home - the Bills should maintain quality offensive balance against the Seahawks' weakened defense.

Still, it's not all sunshine and butterflies.  Bernard may be out, but the Seahawks still have a fast and disruptive defense.  It's going to take an above average effort by Buffalo's interior linemen to get to the second level when blocking, because Seattle's linemen are so disruptive and their linebackers so active.  Running isn't going to be easy simply because Seattle is weak up the middle.  The Bills will most certainly need to be on their game.

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