The Chargers are at home in Week 7 for a date with the Seahawks.
Kickoff is Sunday at 1:25 p.m. (PT). The Bolts are 4-2 while the Seahawks are 3-3.
We chatted with Michael-Shawn Dugar, who covers the Seahawks for The Athletic, to get a preview of the game.
The Seahawks sit at 3-3 through six games. Are you surprised by that record, or is that where you expected them to be at this point?
MSD: I expected the Seahawks to be a six-win team and projected victories over the Lions, Falcons, Giants and Jets, with a 2-4 record in the NFC West. Things haven't gone quite as I expected to start the year but being 3-3 with wins over Denver and Detroit and an NFC West victory through six weeks isn't all that surprising.
How they've gone about winning – and losing – some of these games is interesting, though. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the league and one of the worst defenses. No one could have predicted that.
Geno Smith is playing like a Pro Bowler and his pass protection has been solid, then on the other side of the ball the defense can't consistently get off the field against one, save for the Week 6 thumping of the Arizona Cardinals. I'd guess Seattle's offensive numbers take a bit of a dip as the year progresses and the defensive numbers steadily improve, leaving Seattle as a slightly below-average team by year's end.
Take a look back at the Chargers Week 6 MNF win over the Broncos in monochrome
Geno Smith seems to have been revitalized of late and drew a ton of praise this week from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. What's been clocking for Smith this season?
MSD: Smith entered this season with more career interceptions (37) than touchdown passes (34) and had yet to demonstrate an ability to push the ball down the field without compromising accuracy or ball security. He has figured out that balance in Seattle. It helps having reliable pass protection and arguably the best receiving tandem in football but more than the weapons around him, Smith just seems to have learned how to take calculated risks with the football. In New York, he appeared to be a gunslinger with no regard for the consequences. Here in Seattle, playing for a coach whose program is "all about the ball," Smith learned how to take care of the ball while still getting it to his playmakers at an efficient clip.
Tariq Woolen has been solid all season and is coming off NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. What's been the key to his success as a rookie?
MSD: He just continues to grow. His coverage has been fine the entire season but he's had a penalty problem, drawing six on the season, third-most in the NFL. You can tell the coaches have worked with him to better understand how officials call games in the NFL. They've also appeared to reinforce to him that because his coverage has been so good, he doesn't have to get grabby at the point of attack – he can just go up and catch the ball. He's done that part of the job as well as anyone in the league. Beyond that, Woolen is 6-foot-4 with 4.2 speed and 34-inch arms, so much of what we're seeing thus far is the usage of natural ability and athleticism.
Who's an under-the-radar Seahawks player to keep an eye on Sunday?
MSD: A familiar face to Chargers fans: Uchenna Nwosu. He was quietly Seattle's most expensive free agent signing, inking a two-year, $19 million contract. Among players with at least 100 pass-rush snaps, the former Charger ranks 23rd in pressure percentage (13.6). He leads the Seahawks with eight quarterback hits and three sacks. Nwosu also has a forced fumble and a pair of batted passes on the season. Nwosu said this week he's always fired up on game day so there's no added motivation playing against his former team this week. Regardless, he's a Seahawk player not often discussed who can have a significant impact in the outcome of the game Sunday.
Finally, what's a 1-on-1 matchup you're looking forward to tracking in Week 7?
MSD: Let's go to the trenches: Nose tackle Al Woods against center Corey Linsley, two guys at essential positions in their respective schemes. It's Linsley's job to call signals and maintain order up front. It's Woods' job to wreak havoc. The Chargers are better at running the ball and better at protecting their quarterback with Linsley in the lineup. The Seahawks are a better run defense when their 350-plus pound defensive tackle is manning the middle. If Linsley gets the better of Woods, the Chargers' chances of winning go way up. The same is true for Seattle if Woods dominates Linsley and the Chargers' front.
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