Saturday, January 5, 2013
Matchup breakout worth 5 cents, perhaps 10
By Mike Sando
The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins need to play this wild-card game soon or we'll be left to break down things as inane as how Robert Griffin III might fare targeting slot receivers when Seattle has its newly restored nickel defense on the field Sunday.
Wait, this just in: We've reached that point, as of now. The exercise isn't all that inane, I promise, because when the Seahawks look to upgrade a defense that led the NFL in fewest points allowed, nickel corner is one position they'll target. It's an important one, too, given how much time defenses spend in their nickel and dime personnel packages.
The short-term outlook does appear to be looking up, however. With cornerback Brandon Browner returning from suspension this week, Seattle can again field its preferred base and nickel secondaries.
The nickel defense gets our attention here.
Browner and Richard Sherman are the outside corners. Marcus Trufant is the nickel corner. Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor round out this fivesome.
The chart shows stats for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III when targeting wide receivers from the slot against nickel/dime defenses. It also shows slot-receiver stats against Seattle's defense when Browner, Sherman, Trufant, Thomas and Chancellor were on the field together.
I would have expected less impressive defensive stats for Seattle in these situations.
Miami's Ryan Tannehill did complete all four attempts for 58 yards when targeting slot wide receivers against this Seattle personnel grouping. That was in Week 12, the most recent game for Browner. Earlier, New England's Tom Brady completed 9 of 12 such passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, but Seattle also picked him off twice on these throws.
Santana Moss is the Redskins' player to watch in these situations. He has 30 receptions for 467 yards and six touchdowns from the slot against nickel/dime defenses this season, regardless of quarterback. He has gained 208 of those yards after the catch.
This matchup will be an important one for Seattle to win, even if others get more of our attention.
Up next: How RG III fares on third down when shadows cover at least 48.3 percent of the playing surface at FedEx Field. I'm kidding, for now.