Editor's Note: Brian McIntyre, who runs his own NFL blog which you can check out here, will be an occasional contributor on the blog, including his must-read, weekly personnel profile every Monday.
Here, Brian unearths a few statistical nuggets with Kentwan Balmer and Junior Siavii moving into the starting defensive rotation for Seattle on Sunday against the N.Y. Giants.
Red Bryant’s torn MCL and Colin Cole’s ankle injury are major blows to a Seattle Seahawks defense that, up until recently, had been doing well against the run. Those injuries also will thrust a pair of training camp roster additions into starting roles in Seattle’s base defense as the New York Giants and their No.4-ranked rushing attack visit Qwest Field this Sunday.
Former San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Kentwan Balmer, acquired for a 2011 sixth-round pick in the middle of training camp, replaces Bryant as the starting “5” technique end. Junior Siavii, signed as a free agent on September 6 after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys, is now the interim starter at Cole’s nose tackle spot.
Through the first seven games of the season, the Seahawks have been in base personnel on 273 of 473 (57.7%) official defensive plays. Excluding kneel-downs, 140 of those plays have been runs, with opposing ball-carriers gaining 615 yards, or 4.4 yards per carry.
With Balmer playing more at the “3” technique tackle spot in base, nickel, and dime packages, Bryant had logged a considerable portion of the “5” technique snaps (203-70) to this point. Considering Bryant had an entire off-season and pre-season to adapt to his new position, the run defense has been tougher to run against with him on the field:
Siavii (6-5, 315) has been active for all 7 games this season, and has logged 116 snaps, 89 of which coming as a defensive tackle in Seattle’s base defense. Siavii has been paired with “3” technique tackles Balmer, Brandon Mebane, or Craig Terrill on 46 of those plays, and with Cole for the remaining 43.
It’s a small sample size, but Seattle’s run defense has fared well with Siavii as the clear nose tackle in base defense. The combination of Siavii and Cole has struggled, though to be fair, half the carries and 104 of the 177 yards came late in last Sunday’s thumping at the hands of the Raiders. 80 of those 104 yards came on two runs, the longest runs the defense has allowed all season:
|Siavii & Cole||26||177||6.8|
With Balmer at the “5”, and Siavii at the nose, the Seahawks have allowed 53 yards on 13 carries (4.1 per carry) this season. When paired together inside, they’ve allowed 17 yards on six rushing attempts.
A contributing factor to Seattle’s declining run defense has been the absence of Mebane, who has missed the last three games with a calf injury.
Over the first four weeks of the season, when Seattle had allowed 291 rushing yards (72.5 per game) and ranked in the Top 3 in the NFL, the Seahawks’ base defense had given up 276 rushing yards on 83 attempts (3.3 avg., excluding kneel-downs). With Mebane at the “3” technique, Seattle’s defense gave up just 176 yards on 65 attempts, a 2.7 yards per carry average.
Since then, the Chicago Bears (7-41), Arizona Cardinals (20-113), and Raiders (30-185) have pushed the base defense’s yard per carry average to 4.4 as the Seahawks dropped to 10th against the run. Mebane’s status for this Sunday is unclear—he has been a limited participant in practice this week—but based on the numbers, it’s clear that his return could help mitigate the losses of Cole and Bryant.
The NFL has made a minor statistical change from Sunday’s Seahawks-Raiders game, crediting Matt Hasselbeck with an additional three yards passing and running back Justin Forsett with an additional three yards receiving.
Both were originally credited with one yard on the 3rd-and-11 play in the 4th quarter where Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain brought Forsett down by the back of his helmet. The play had actually gained 4 yards, with McClain penalized 15 yards. The NFL made the adjustment this week.