Kenneth Walker III and Opportunistic Defense Is Key to Defeating Los Angeles Chargers

The analytics community scoffed, and many Seattle Seahawks fans scratched their heads while Pete Carroll and John Schneider celebrated. With the 41st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Seahawks drafted the shifty running back out of Michigan State, Kenneth Walker III.

While the first four and a half weeks of the season made for a quiet start to the season, an injury to incumbent Rashaad Penny would alter the Seahawks running game. Towards the end of the fourth quarter that Walker would rip off a 69-yard touchdown run to allow the Seahawks to temporarily take the lead. A “Welcome to the NFL” moment as good as any, Walker had introduced himself to the league.

After another positive display of his talents in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals, Walker has now put himself in the conversation for influencing game plans for the Seahawks going forward. Their next test? The 23rd-ranked rush defense of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kenneth Walker III and Opportunistic Defense Is Key to Defeating Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers Kryptonite

The Chargers, led by defensive guru Brandon Staley, have struggled to defend the run so far in 2022. In Week 1, Josh Jacobs averaged 5.7 yards per carry and Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged 9.2 in Week 2. A week later, James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars ran wild on the Los Angeles defense to the tune of 17 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Despite numerous additions to their defense over the off-season, the Chargers have yet to figure out a way to contain opposing teams’ run games. They currently rank 23rd in the league defending the run. The Denver Broncos inexplicably did not lean on their run game even with Russell Wilson struggling. What does that mean for the Seahawks in Week 7?

Run the Ball, Run the Ball!

There’s no secret to how Pete Carroll wants to run his program. With the offensive line coming together quicker than anticipated, Kenneth Walker III emerging as a key threat, and Geno Smith playing the best football of his career, Carroll has an opportunity to build on the early success his team has had on offense.

Seattle is 11th in rushing yards per game on offense and fourth in yards per rush attempt. Smith has been precise in his passing attack completing his throws at a clip of 73.4%. One development to keep an eye on is Phil Haynes starting at guard in place of Gabe Jackson. Haynes has filled in nicely over the years for Seattle in his backup role, however, Jackson certainly has a higher ceiling.

Another component working in Seattle’s favor is the struggles of Los Angeles’ $82 million man. J.C. Jackson’s struggles since leaving New England for LA have been well-documented this season, including getting benched Monday night against Denver. Staley did make it clear that the Chargers are not giving up on the young defensive back.

Other Factors to Consider

Seattle’s defense has had a rough start to the 2022 season, however, the tide began to turn last week holding the Arizona offense to three points. Rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen was awarded NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in securing the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter.

On the other side of the field, Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense have endured an up-and-down season. Herbert has been battling a rib injury since Week 2 and Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has come under scrutiny due to his lack of creativity in play-calling on offense.

Keenan Allen potentially returning to the lineup this week would provide the offense with a spark, however, Lombardi will have to open up the playbook if the Chargers will want to have sustained success this season. As it stands for Week 7, the Chargers offense is talented enough to have its opportunities to strike against a young Seattle defense.

West Coast Show-Down

Looking at these two teams from a bird’s eye view, it may be easy to pick the Chargers in this one. On one hand, they are the feisty, up-and-coming team with a young talented quarterback and a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. However, upon taking a closer look, this Chargers team is not without its flaws. And even though Seattle is undergoing a transitional year, they are playing to their strengths and it has led to a 3-3 start.

If Seattle is able to get into an early lead on Sunday and control the ball and the clock while baiting Staley into poor fourth-down decisions, it may be enough for the Seahawks to walk out of Los Angeles with a win. While Seattle’s defense hasn’t performed to expectations, they have proven that they have the ability to be opportunistic. Add that with a mix of rookie sensation Kenneth Walker III, Seattle may just have the recipe for a win.