LB Chris Draft vs TE John Carlson
Carlson's been a bright spot for the Seahawks this season. Over his last two games, the rookie from Notre Dame has 14 catches, 174 yards and a TD. He's doing what the Rams had hoped Randy McMichael would be doing this season. For a West Coast offense guy like Mike Holmgren, Carlson offers a valuable asset. He leads the team in receptions with 46 and yards with 525. Of course, being the only healthy player week-in, week-out to catch the ball has helped Carlson's status. He's no Joe Klopfenstein.
Dig a little deeper, and his numbers reveal just how essential he's been to the Seahawks. Thirty of his receptions have been for a first down. The lowly Seahawks became the second NFC West team to come close to beating the Patriots (the other being the Rams) thanks to his 69 yards and a TD on 8 catches.
The Rams LBs, not just Draft, will have to keep Carlson covered. Without a shutdown runner - back-up QB Seneca Wallace led the team in rushing yards last week with 47 - Carlson becomes the primary threat for getting beyond the front line and moving the chains. According to DVOA, the Rams are ranked 19th, 10.2%, against TEs, allowing an average of 5.5 catches per game for 39.2 yards. The last TE to rack up some numbers against them was the Bears Desmond Clark who had 5 catches for 40 yards. His first catch of the game was a 15 yard grab on the right side that set up the Bears first TD of the game on the next play. Two of his five catches gave the Bears first downs.
Hopefully, having Draft (or Vobora) in the middle, will better position the Rams to defend these plays since Witherspoon and Tinoisamoa will be on the outside. Of course, Witherspoon's ailing and you never know which Pisa will show up. Todd Johnson, starting at SS for the benched Corey Chavous should help the coverage too.