As the New England Patriots get ready to face the Seattle Seahawks, it becomes time to take a look at five players on offense whom the Pats need to watch out for. While the ‘Hawks defense is the more impressive unit, there are still some stars on offense well worth watching.
1. RB Marshawn Lynch
It begins and ends with Marshawn Lynch, who is one of the most electrifying backs in the NFL and can succeed no matter how putrid the blocking in front of him is. The Seahawks offensive line has gotten a lot more push this season and is actually Football Outsider’s second-best rated offensive line this year in terms of run blocking.
The most ridiculous number that jumps out on the stat sheet is “25″, which is the number of missed tackles that he has forced so far this season. That total, of course, leads the league. He has gone beast mode all year, and Lynch is probably the most elusive back in the game. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has been a workhorse with 113 carries for 508 yards.
Among all backs with at least 90 carries this season, only Stevan Ridley and Jamaal Charles are averaging more yards per carry. Lynch is currently second to only Ray Rice in the advanced stat WPA, and it should be noted that Rice’s pass-catching ability and steady stream of targets out of the backfield help contribute greatly to a higher WPA.
2. QB Russell Wilson
I knew this guy was an underrated quarterback prospect coming out of college, but I didn’t know he would be good enough to start as a rookie. Wilson bounced back and had an exceptional game against the Carolina Panthers, as he completed 76% of his passes and continues to show of his accuracy, especially in the middle of the field. The Patriots secondary is better than the Panthers group of DBs, but Patrick Chung has struggled in coverage this year and Steve Gregory will be out for this game.
Wilson is better than some people are giving him credit for, especially Michael Lombardi who wrote an article that I thought was quite off-base with regards to his evaluation of Wilson as a QB (I’m not going to get into the Matt Flynn vs. Wilson controversy, because this isn’t a Seahawks blog). A few of his six interceptions were not his fault, including last week’s bobbled play by Lynch.
Among all quarterbacks this season, Russell Wilson has had the fifth-lowest %YAC this season; a stat that measures the percentage of yards the receiver generates after the catch in comparison with a QB’s total passing yards. The lowest %YAC? That Mark Sanchez guy. That’s a clue that his receivers aren’t doing enough after the catch to help Wilson out by statistical measures.
Marshawn Lynch and Zach Miller are the team leaders in YAC with 56 and 50 yards after the catch respectively, which places them at 108th and 120th in the NFL. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have both been solid this year, but they are 147th and 155th in the league in yards after the catch. That’s a problem.
4. C Max Unger
The leader of the offensive line, Max Unger is a key veteran who is one of the most important players on the Seahawks offense due to his ability to absolutely pave the road as a run blocker. He is expected to play tomorrow after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and he will give the Patriots tough triangle a true test whilst blocking for the great Marshawn Lynch.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.