Curtis Allen’s week two watch points (vs Titans)

Note:  This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

Week Two is easy to look forward to, with the Seahawks handling a good Colts team on Sunday and the Tennessee Titans looking decidedly average in a big loss to Arizona.

But it is best to reset expectations and consider this game a tough test, as we all did when the schedule initially came out.

The Titans played out of character last Sunday.

The NFL’s best turnover-differential team in 2020 lost that battle 3-1.

Their offensive line surrendered a career day to Chandler Jones.

Julio Jones lost his cool and took a foolish penalty to kill a drive.

It’s possible to get that version of the Titans on Sunday but the odds are that Mike Vrabel will have his team ready to play their standard brand of football when they come to town for the Seahawks’ 2021 home opener.

Let’s dig into the watch points and see how the Seahawks can advance to 2-0 this weekend…

Hold Derrick Henry under 100 yards rushing

This is job number one.

When the Titans get 100 yards from Henry, they are 21-2. When they do not, they are 6-12.

While it is always true that your chances of winning the game are vastly better when you do not give up 100 yards to any runner —  against the Titans, holding Henry under 100 yards is the single best key to success. Why?

Tennessee has built their entire offense around him. They have a formidable offensive line and a quarterback who is very effective within the limited framework of their scheme.

They love to do what the Seahawks are trying to implement with new offensive coordinator – run the bulk of their offense out of the same personnel and pre-snap look to disguise their intentions. They frequently bunch all 11 players closely together and run a variation of plays out of the same set.

Henry allows the Titans to run this simple offense very effectively. 

He has unheard of lateral agility and light feet for a player of his size.  They run a zone concept that is very similar to what the Seahawks faced against Indianapolis last week:  get the defenders moving horizontally instead of downhill and give Henry two gap options to choose from on cutbacks. He is fantastic at reading and picking the one not soon to be occupied by a tackler. 

Watch him and the offensive line shut the door on Baltimore with a master example of this concept:

The linemen have everyone shuttled toward the sideline (also kudos to Ben Jones for getting under Justin Ellis even though he’s turned 180 around), Henry has two gaps to choose from and sees that Queen, Harrison and Clark have over pursued and will shortly be helped to the ground by the linemen reaching the second level. He hops laterally and accelerates in nearly the same motion.

No Earl Thomas to stiff arm, just a free path to the end zone leaving Derek Wolfe on the ground to ponder his life choices.

Of course, that is a prime example but not what happens on every single play. Yet the threat of Henry allows them to run quick passes off play action. When Henry is established as a runner, defenders must key on him and this allows Tannehill to use play action and quickly get the ball out before pass rushers can get home.

One play the Titans love to run off the play action is an extremely simple crossing route off play action to AJ Brown. This play is a staple of their offense and Brown and Tannehill have perfected it.

Here is another example that is like watching a perfectly tuned formula one race car:

Tannehill is so quick with the play action, acquiring the target and throwing, Vince Williams realizes half a heartbeat too late that it is play action and just barely misses getting back to the throwing lane. From there, it is just Brown accelerating into the daylight.

It is all made effective by the established threat of Derrick Henry.

So how do the Seahawks combat this? 

They got a top-flight tune up in the zone-read game with the Colts last week. A lot of the things the Colts do in the run game are very similar to the Titans.

While setting the edge in the defense is always important — and this is still an area where the Seahawks need to improve — the Titans usually keep their powerful interior linemen inside and looking to get to the second level as soon as possible.

The Seahawks deployed an interesting personnel grouping against the Colts – a sort of “Bear Front Plus One” with two of Poona, Mone, and Woods on the field, accompanied by two of Mayowa, Dunlap or Green. They supplemented this with a fifth man at the edge, such as Darrell Taylor, but also used Jordyn Brooks and Alton Robinson there.

They likely will use a similar grouping concept in this game, with a primary goal of keeping Wagner, Adams, and Brooks as clean as possible to fill those gaps.

It will be a tall task but the defense will be playing with some confidence after holding Jonathan Taylor in check the week prior.

If it makes you feel any better, the Seahawks are facing Henry at the best time possible.  September is his worst month by far.  He only averages 3.88 yards per carry in September in his career, a full yard lower than his career average of 4.9 yards per carry.

The lesson: Get at Henry early in the year, early in the season, early in the game. That is your best shot.

Not unrelated to Henry’s effectiveness is our next point…

Make Ryan Tannehill go to his second read

How has Tannehill had a career resurrection in Tennessee? 

There are a lot of factors but the primary one is his strengths perfectly align with the Titans’ offensive concepts.

He is not required to regularly create plays on his feet. The Titans run the ball incredibly well and then feed their receivers with quick passes that barely require Tannehill to even make a read.

Look again at that AJ Brown crossing route above. How does Tannehill make that play so quickly?

He does not really have a read. He knows where he is going and he can rely on the play action to open the lane for him. His biggest task is to time the pass properly. So, his job is much easier than a ‘standard’ quarterback. Make no mistake though, he is not a hack.  He consistently accomplishes what he is asked to do with a high degree of competency.

Watch Minkah Fitzpatrick on that play. He takes a bad angle that probably would have been acceptable and limited Brown to an 8–10-yard gain if Tannehill does not perfectly hit Brown in stride and allow him to turn on the jets.

That is what the Titans want Tannehill to do. Take the snap and throw on the first read. And he is very, very good at it.

In the 1-10 yard zone from the line of scrimmage, Tannehill’s QB Rating is 117.53 – an astounding 31% better than the league average.

There is job two, defense. Do not have him let his first throw.

The backfield is going to have a real task on their hands. Julio Jones and AJ Brown against DJ Reed and Tre Flowers does not inspire confidence.

But consistently giving a free release is not an option if you want to keep this offense in check.  The corners have to trust that Quandre Diggs has deep coverage and can time up those crossing routes correctly.

Jamal Adams needs to have a game Sunday. Whether it is providing three or four of those free blitzes, wrestling Henry down, keeping those passing lanes behind the LOS occupied or jarring the ball loose with a tough hit, this game is tailor-made for a player with his skill set.

The Seahawks need to attack the Tennessee tackles. The Titans have not settled their right tackle spot. In fact, their depth chart to start the season listed three right tackles in the first spot. Second round pick Dillon Radunz was a healthy scratch last week and David Quessenberry did not inspire anyone with his performance against the Cardinals.

Taylor Lewan also had a very rough game at left tackle against Chandler Jones last Sunday.  Is that a sign of things to come or just a bad day at the office getting back after a tough injury? Hard to say. Duane Brown had a tough day early last year against Aldon Smith and ended up having a terrific season overall for the Seahawks. It is very possible Lewan can do the same.

But there is an opportunity there to put some pressure on Tannehill. If the edge rushers can apply some pressure and the backfield even slightly disrupts the wide receivers’ routes, the Seahawks can turn the formula one race car into a sputtering Sunday grandma driver.

Control this game with the offense

The Titans defense was awful in 2020. They had few sacks, unreliable corners and were carried by a powerful run offense that does not make a habit of turning the ball over.

One area the Titans were especially poor in? First and 10 plays.

The Titans gave up an average of 6.77 yards per play(!) — a 70% completion rate on passes, and a god-awful 76 first downs on First and 10 plays. The worst numbers in the NFL apart from the Detroit Lions.

They went about upgrading their pass rush by bringing in Bud Dupree and Denico Autry and praying that Harold Landry can start sacking the quarterback again. They also brought in new corners.

How are they doing in 2021? Well admittedly it is a one-game sample — but not good so far.

They gave up 6.16 yards per play on First and 10 to the Cardinals and allowed three first downs. In all three of those drives they scored points.

This suggests the Seahawks have a very good opportunity to run their entire playbook whenever they want in this game. Logic dictates that the Seahawks can pass on first down if they choose and that might be a great way to take control of the game.

As well, they can mix the run and pass as they like.

A game like this against a tough opponent, some coaches like to gear down and attempt to match the Titans’ offensive physicality and intensity. But it will be beneficial to put some scoreboard pressure on the Titan offense and let the Lumen crowd exercise their vocal cords a bit for the first time in a couple years. It will open chances for sacks and turnovers and take Ryan Tannehill out of his comfort zone.

Just a thought, how about Russell & DK show Tannehill & Brown how the crossing route is really done?

Anything you can do, I can do better…

The Titans will be eager to keep unleashing their new pass rushers though, so this brings us to our final watch point…

Burn the blitz

It may be easy to look at the Arizona game and judge the Titans pass rush as poor.

Kyler Murray had 289 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, was only sacked twice and had one interception in a 25 point win.

But the pass rush did a fine job. 

They recorded nine pressures and a 25.7% pressure rate on Kyler Murray. 

Murray was just better with an outstanding performance.  So, so much better. 

When blitzed, he was 5 for 6 with three first downs, two touchdowns and a 157.6 passer rating. He crazy-legged his way out of trouble and created time for his wide receivers to uncover.

Sound familiar?

Russell Wilson’s numbers the last three seasons when blitzed are sparkling:

— 38 touchdowns against nine interceptions

— 201 First downs

— A 104 passer rating

Russell Wilson eats his opponents’ lunch when under pressure.

With multiple options at the tight end and running back spots for quick passes, and a Titan secondary likely up at night after watching tape of Wilson’s twin bombs to Tyler Lockett against Indy, there should be plenty of opportunities to make them pay for having the audacity to rush the passer.

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  1. DriveByPoster

    Nice work, cha! These must take you a fair while to put together. Not only are they informative but they make a good read too. Thumbs up, man!

    • Roger Davis


  2. Sea Mode

    I’m gonna be sweating watching Julio Jones whenever he lines up over on Tre Flowers’ side… 😬

    • clbradley17

      Hopefully both Sidney Jones and Tre Brown are better options, heal and replace Flowers and/or Reed soon. 49ers coach mentioned they were in discussions with Sherman after the 1st game. Maybe we can convince him to come here instead. And sign Geno Atkins if he’s healthy and looked good in the tryout!

      • Simo

        It’s strange how there’s no talk at all about (anyone) signing Geno as we approach game time in week 2. I think there’s a fair chance he just doesn’t have much left at this stage, and perhaps he still wants to be paid like a top player.

        If he’s sorted his mental health issues it sure would be fun to see Sherm back on the field for the Hawks. He would likely still be a sizable upgrade as well as a great mentor (football wise anyway) for the young corners.

      • GerryG

        Huge Sherm fan, and I hope for nothing but the best for him, but I just dont see him being a help to a team currently. He is coming off an injury plagued year, and his body has taken a beating during his career: playing through injuries, and being a fearless, physical tackler.

        To recover from injuries, especially later in players careers, takes serious dedication. Sherm has been struggling immensely this past year, which doesnt bode well for the dedication it takes to be NFL ready, and recovered from injuries. Drinking multiple bottles of booze (according to arrest report) also suggests a significant tolerance to alcohol, and therefore a lot of drinking. Again, not conducive to being a top flight NFL player, especially in your 30’s.

        I am just very skeptical that Sherm’s mental health, physical condition, and training are up to starting NFL caliber at this point.

    • GoHawksDani

      I’m no fan of Flowers…I think he’s awful. Always thought that.
      BUT while he’s a bad CB, and a mediocre-bad safety…he might be one of our better CB-safety hybrid.
      He’s really good attacking the run-game. Decent blitzer, solid run-blitzer, decent tackler. He’s just slow and has issues covering guys especially man and especially for longer periods.
      But if an RB catched a pass, and I need to choose a CB to react to it and tackle in the open space, I might choose Flowers from all of our corners

  3. clbradley17

    2021 Week 1: Seahawks vs Colts | Seahawks All Access

    • Justaguy

      Good stuff, thanks!

  4. Edgar

    This is now a MUST read every week- Awesome work

    • Rob Staton

      Best Seahawks content anyone will read this week IMO

      • bmseattle

        Excellent work, Cha.

  5. James Cr.

    Great write up thanks Cha!
    Totally agree that this is a game Adams need to shine on defense.

  6. G.T.

    Great article, cha! Thank you for the work that you obviously put into this. I admire your thoroughness!

  7. cha

    Thanks everyone

    Some bonus content on Tannehill (and by bonus, I mean I forgot to include it in my article):

    He got 54% of his passes out in under 2.5 seconds in 2020. How did he fare?

    72.87 Completion %
    117.8 QB rating

    The other 46% of passes / More than 2.5 seconds?

    56.95 Completion %
    93.5 QB rating

    You read that correctly. Tannehill is 20% less effective as a passer when he has to hold the ball and make decisions.

  8. Ashish

    Always look forward for your article, it has information which is not found anywhere. Thank you for your time.

  9. Blitzy the Clown

    Great read cha. I noticed in the game vs Indy, on several of those “bear front plus one” formations, KNJ had Green line up at SAM, which of course requires him to cover the TE/WR, and he can’t do that. He gave up several decent (8-10 yard) completions in those situations. I sincerely hope they stop asking him to do something he clearly cannot.

    • cha

      I think that is a valid point.

      Clearly they’ve made a determination that they can live without a SAM that has even average skills in coverage. Perhaps time will show they’re rotating Diggs or Adams to that quadrant of the field behind the SAM as a backup until they train up the guys they need there.

      But I seriously doubt it has escaped the attention of McVay and Shanahan.

      • GoHawksDani

        I would hate if they’d use Taylor as a pure SAM, but as a bear front +1 rusher who might also drop in coverage, I wouldn’t mind. He has a lot to learn but he’s lean and for shorter routes, I could see him being an OK option there.

        I also wouldn’t mind if they’d use 4-2-5 even for not passing downs with a big nickel. Adams could line up near the LoS using him more in a SAM role where he might rush he might drop in coverage and we could line up Reed, Flowers/Brown/Jones, Blair, Diggs, (Adams) in the secondary. Adams should be able to shred TE blocks and set the edge if he thinks he’s the best safety/LB out there

  10. Big Mike

    Thanks so much cha. Outstanding stuff

  11. Blitzy the Clown

    I’ll say this about Kyle Fuller from last week…

    He pulled off the hat trick of adequacy:

    0 penalties
    0 fumbled snaps
    0 sacks given up

    It could be worse.

    • Simo

      Indeed! And wasn’t he matched up against Buckner for much of time he was on the field? I did notice Pocic, however, and it wasn’t good! I’ll take those 0’s anytime!

      This gives me some confidence that Fuller can handle that spot at a league average rating, or perhaps slightly better. Now I’m not saying they shouldn’t continue to search for a center upgrade, because they should!!

    • Poli

      Every time the PFF grades come out after a game, Fuller has some of the worst pass block grades I’ve seen. Must give up a ton of pressures.

  12. cha

    If this is what the Titans roll out Sunday vs DK, Tyler, Everett and Dissly, it’s going to be another stress-free Sunday.

  13. Palatypus

    PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Senior Bowl tickets went on sale today.

    • Rob Staton

      What’s the date for the start of practise in 2022?

      • Palatypus

        I don’t know. They say that practices might be open to the public again.

        In any event, I just got mine. Level 100 Section 126 Row 1 Seat 12 & 13. $96.00

        • Rob Staton

          Well when’s the game? It’s the week leading into it where practise takes place

          • Palatypus

            According to the countdown clock that they just put up on the site, it is in 142 days, 23 hours, 14 minutes, and 59…58…57…56

            • Palatypus

              So, February 5th.

      • Gohawks5151

        Get this man to the Mobile

        • Palatypus

          I could do that. We have a guest room and it is unlikely I can get a date.

  14. Hank

    I loved this analysis! The video clips were superb. Thanks for your work on this.

  15. cha

    Handful of moves, Pocic to IR and Simmons leaving to sign with the Raiders off the Seahawks’ PS

    The Seahawks also added three players to their practice squad, signing receiver De’Quan Hampton, tight end Michael Jacobson and receiver Connor Wedington.

    So it’s Fuller’s job for now. Either Shepley is active Sunday or Haynes is a PS gameday promotion for backup.

    • Mick

      I also enjoyed reading your article very much.

      With Pocic injured we have to sign a center, Lestage didn’t show enough to be a backup solution.

      • clbradley17

        I heard that Haynes had a mid 80s grade on PFF when they tried him at center for part of the 2nd or 3rd game during the preseason. That’s why it was surprising when they cut him. And even more stunning that they put their eggs in the basket of someone who had 20s to 40s on PFF in preseason to start at center, although Fuller did pretty good with no sacks or penalties vs. Indy.

    • Big Mike

      Lewis could be the backup plan tho I hope not.

  16. Rob Staton

    In today’s press conference we saw the return of the ‘how good is Bobby Wagner?’ question and a long monologue from Carroll on social matters.

    Seahawks Football is back.

    • cha

      Watch Vrable’s today.

      All football questions.

      All direct. All business.

      One after another.

      “What is your approach to bounce back after a loss and go on the road against a tough team?”

      “What type of stress does Jamal Adams put on your offense?”

      “How will you guys handle needing a silent count Sunday?”

      “Is there any benefit in playing Kyler, then Russell in terms of how you prepare?”

      “Taylor’s (Lewan) recovery, and what happened to him (terrible game), how much do you have to calibrate for that and what he does going forward?”

      “What did Bradley McDougald show that earned him the promotion?”

      “How do you balance getting more targets for Julio and AJ and not press too much?”

      Follow-up “The interception off Julio – is that an example of forcing it too much?”

      “Separation and speed, can you be better in those departments than last Sunday?”

      “You calling the Julio flag ‘**** play’ sending a message to your guys?”

      And Vrabel’s answers matched every question. All business.

      The closest he got to humor is cracking about how they’ve had ’53 kickers on this team in the last 3 years’

      Not a single ‘Hey did you know that John Rhattigan was a West Point graduate and I went to West Point and could you say out loud that Rhattigan went to West Point so I can fill column inches all week about that?’

      • Rob Staton

        I’d love a press conference like that…

      • Ashish

        That is well use of the time. What’s wrong with our guys feels like they are given questions and Pete is aware of them. Hence very detailed answer for rubbish questions.

    • bmseattle

      …and a long monologue from Carroll on social matters.

      Do all NFL head coaches ramble on for 20 minutes like that?
      Or is our local media just *that* interested in Pete’s world view?

      • Rob Staton

        I think it’s a Pete speciality

        • SeaTown

          I used to look forward to the weekly coach and player interviews. I’ve stopped watching.

          • Ashish

            Same here. I tried to watch recently of Shane Waldron it was 10 minutes and stopped after 3 minutes ha ha.

  17. Paul Cook

    Nice write up.

    I wish we had more strength at CB, as it would be nice to concentrate the rest of our D closer to the line of scrimmage.

    If there was a team I’d love to jump on early, get off to a two score lead in the game early, this might be one of those teams. It would be nice to try to take them out of their probable game plan.

    I don’t know. We should just win this game. I always had this game as a win for us every time I gazed at the schedule. At home in front of a big excited crowd, and now coming off an optimistic opening season win. Come on. Let’s stop their strengths and let our offense take car of the rest.

  18. Paul Cook

    PS> This is a game where I’d like to win the coin toss and take the ball first. Make a statement in that way.

  19. SeattleLifer

    It’s pretty straightforward for the Hawks this year – they have to avoid injuries like no other team has in recent memory. Lose a tackle, center, DK or Lockett, or lastly Carson and the offense will suffer significantly. (Excluded Russ cause duh).

    Lose a DE, DT not named Woods, Wagner or Brooks and pretty much any outside CB and we’re in real trouble on defense.

    Lose our punter or FG kicker and we’re stressing special teams big time.

    It’s still early to tell how we’ll fare against the better teams in the league (I am a bit hesitant to see) as we certainly aren’t a perfect team but we should be able to give a fair number of teams a good run at it if we can stay healthy(which is admittedly a pretty big ask).

  20. Andrew

    I had this game pegged as a loss until this week, so if they don’t get a W I’ll try to be happy with a competitive game. The Titans did not look ready last week and were outplayed in all phases. But Vrabel is a good coach, don’t expect that two weeks in a row. For the Hawks I really think this comes down to the coaches and having everybody in line. This might be the kind of game we see once a year, where the whole team just looks swampy and disorganized. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I have the feeling all is in place for them to beat themselves: first home crowd since 2019, an interior opponent that looked atrocious the week before, and national press praising the new MVP: Shane Waldron. All local eyes will be on Tre Flowers of course, but our new-look offense should probably be riding circles around this Tennessee defense, if the can stay out of their own way. Let’s hope this is a high scoring affair pitting DK against Julio Jones, and another great showcase for the Wilson/Waldron era.

  21. Ashish

    Seahawks move Ethan Pocic to injured reserve
    Guy was injured throughout the off-season should have invested in vet or youth. I hate when coaches get overconfident and dont give importance to center. Hello Rams, hope it reminds them

    • Rob Staton

      You’re right he should’ve been replaced in the off-season

    • McZ

      The most painful watch last weekend was Cesar Ruiz playing superb in that monster Saints OL.

      • bmseattle

        It’s very obvious that they don’t value the position… going all the way back to when they traded Unger for some reason.

        Since then, it’s been nothing but plug-ins and/or conversions from other positions.

  22. Palatypus

    Just to be obnoxious, I offered last week’s FF opponent, that I vanquished, Baker Mayfield for Aaron Rodgers straight up in a trade.

    They haven’t rejected that offer yet. LOL

  23. STTBM

    Excellent article!

    I’m worried Carrol will over-commit to stopping the run on defense, and the Titans will shred us with similar short passes underneath, especially vs Flowers. We’ve seen what happens when Carrols obsession with stopping the run backfires last season vs the Bills.

    • Henry Taylor

      Not sure Tannehill has the same ability to shred us through the air. Or that the Bills’ run game poses the same threat as Henry.

      Stopping the run is the right move.

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