Pre-Season Week Two is upon us, and in this inaugural edition of what hopes to be a weekly feature, I will examine match-ups to watch in the upcoming game against the Broncos. Despite all the complex scheming in football to be a successful team the real key is to win one on one match-ups. Football is often compared to a chess game but that’s a bit of a misnomer because strategy is impotent without execution. You must block, tackle, cover or elude the man opposite you or even the most ingeniously designed plays are destined to fail. In preseason it is hard to say exactly who will be lining up across from who, so I chose to highlight two match-ups that are assured to happen and one that may not, but would be a treat to see.
Match-up #1: Chris Clemons vs. Ryan Clady
We are all familiar with what Chris Clemons has done over the last two years, but he may meet his match in Denver’s LT Ryan Clady. Clady has prototypical LT size at 6-6 316 lbs and already has a First-Team All-Pro selection on his resume from 2009. There are very few holes in Clady’s game and although he has not been quite as dominant over the last two years he remains an elite tackle. Clemons stands no chance of overpowering Clady and will be in tough trying to beat him with the speed rush as Clady does not lack for footwork or athleticism. I have heard criticisms of Clemons stating that he racks up his sacks against weak competition and struggles against elite tackles. I’m not sure if that is valid but if he is able to win tonight’s match-up against Ryan Clady then it will definitely be a good sign that those claims are not true.
Matchup #2: Russell Okung vs. Elvis Dumervil
Sorry to bore you with another RE-LT match-up but it is arguably the most important one on one in the game. These are both premium positions where players make premium money because a quarterback’s effectiveness and even health can depend on his team having a LT that can shut down the other teams stud pass rusher, who is often deployed at RE. Seahawks fans got to see the benefits of a truly dominant LT in Walter Jones fairly recently and are looking for that kind of dominance in Okung. That expectation is unfair but Okung has the chance to be special. The most important thing for Okung is stay healthy. We know that Okung can play be a capable LT but this is the year the Seahawks need to see him play all 16 games. We won’t know Okung’s true ceiling until we get a healthy season out of him. In this tune-up game Okung faces an immense challenge in Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil is an absolute monster when it comes to pass rushing as shown by his 17 sacks in 2009. After missing 2010 to injury, Dumervil came back with a solid 9.5 sacks last year. Dumervil has averaged 0.7 sacks per game over his career which ranks 3rd in the league over that time and 10th in NFL history. Dumervil has an unusual build, at 5-11 260 lbs, and elite quickness and should prove a handful for Okung. If Okung can play this one to even a stalemate then it will be a very encouraging sign for the upcoming year.
Match-up #3: Terrell Owens vs. Champ Bailey
This one may not occur depending on when the teams choose to deploy each of the players but bear with me here. These two players are a combined 72 years old with 28 years in the NFL. They share 17 Pro Bowls and 8 First-Team All-Pro selections. That’s pretty impressive. Neither player is quite what they were in their prime years but both have aged unusually gracefully and both remain effective players. Bailey is the complete package, one of the few CB with the size and savvy to compete with the physical game that Owens brings. If Owens faces off against Champ Bailey and has any success whatsoever then Seahawks fans should be optimistic as to how ready he is for the 2012 season.
In a preseason game it’s hard to say that these match-ups will determine the outcome of the game, instead I will say that they will give us more ammunition for our analysis of the 2012 Seahawks. The one on ones examined here are all cases of Seahawks going up against elite players, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions. We should not expect to dominate over even win these match-ups but rather for the Seahawks to hold their own. Holding your own against the likes of Ryan Clady, Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey is a pretty fine achievement. The best evaluation tool out there is seeing how someone stacks up against the very best in the business.