Arizona Cardinals can’t get caught sleeping vs. Geno Smith, Seahawks
TEMPE — Not that long ago, the Seattle Seahawks were viewed by many as one of the worst teams in the NFL heading into the season.
Stuck between four-year pro Drew Lock and a 32-year-old Geno Smith at quarterback following the departure of Russell Wilson via trade this offseason, Seattle’s offense was on a clear path of regression, if not complete disaster.
Or so we thought.
After winning the starting job this offseason and becoming a full-time starter for the first time since 2014, Smith is turning heads and keeping Seattle right in the thick of things divisionally at 2-3.
Through five games, the signal caller has completed 75.2% of his passes for 1,305 yards and nine touchdowns to two interceptions. He’s tops in the league in terms of passer rating (113.1) and accuracy and is fourth among NFL signal callers in QBR (74.8).
He’s also utilizing his legs, chipping in 77 yards and a score on 20 attempts.
Smith’s play has the elevated an offense that was expected to flounder, with the Seahawks posting the fourth most expected points per play.
“It’s not like he’s throwing checkdowns, either,” defensive end J.J. Watt said Thursday. “He’s throwing 50-, 60-yard bombs and dropping it in the bucket and playing great football. He’s putting them in good situations, he can move when he has to. He’s doing an unbelievable job, so it’s a great challenge for us.”
J.J. Watt on Seahawks QB Geno Smith: pic.twitter.com/QvzEX4WK2D
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) October 13, 2022
The QB may be different in Seattle, but the ones on the receiving end remain largely the same behind the trio of Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Will Dissly.
Lockett (406) and Metcalf (372) are first and second among Seattle’s wideouts in receiving yards. The pair has combined for four touchdowns and 10 plays of at least 20 yards so far this season.
Dissly currently paces all Seahawks with three touchdowns. The tight end is well on his way to his best season as a pro.
For the Cardinals, keeping Seattle at bay will come down to winning the battle in the trenches and keeping the Seahawks one-dimensional.
That begins with wrecking Seattle’s run game. Arizona won’t have to worry about starting running back Rashaad Penny, who was having a career year before a broken fibula suffered last week sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The Cardinals will have to deal with Kenneth Walker III, however. The rookie filled in well in place of Penny against the New Orleans Saints, recording 88 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He had rushed for just 58 yards on 15 attempts before Week 5.
“Penny was having a great year, but this kid is special,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “They may get better with this guy. I don’t know. They’re doing it (Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s) way: running the football and taking shots. It’s going to be a challenge to stop the run game first with numbers and technique and guys making plays and then take away (Lockett and Metcalf).
“It’s almost an impossible task when you think about, loading the box for the run and taking away those two receivers. So, we’ll see how it gets done.”
And with a run game in check, that allows Zach Allen and Watt to go to work on Smith.
The duo has lifted up the pass rush early on this season. The sack numbers may not be outstanding on paper — it’s last in the NFL with six — but opposing quarterbacks are feeling the pressure.
Against a Seahawks offensive line that features two 2022 draft picks, opportunities should be there, especially for Allen, who is coming off back-to-back weeks with a sack and has eight QB hits on the year.
– Kyler Murray on Smith:
“I was a big Geno Smith fan (when) he was at (West Virginia). He’s playing real hot right now. He’s playing really well. We’ve got be locked in this week because he’s playing … probably some of the best football any quarterback in the league is playing right now. The defense will be ready. We’ve got to be ready on offense to put up points and we know that.”