With a ticket to the Divisional Round up for grabs, the Seattle Seahawks will square off against the Dallas Cowboys in a Wild Card matchup featuring two of the NFL’s hottest teams.
While the Seahawks will need a signature performance from quarterback Russell Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and their other star players, to survive and advance in the postseason, role players have to step up and rise to the occasion.
Heading into Saturday’s pivotal rematch with the Cowboys, keep an eye on these five unheralded Seahawks who could have a significant influence on the final outcome at AT&T Stadium.
Rashaad Penny, Running Back
Dealing with a nagging knee injury, Penny missed two of the final three regular season games for Seattle and only received four carries in the season finale against the Cardinals. But before the injury, the first-round pick had finally found his groove after a sluggish start, rushing for 267 yards, two touchdowns, and nearly seven yards per carry during the five previous games. Possessing a second gear that Chris Carson and Mike Davis don’t have, he’s more of a home run threat if he finds open space to operate. That big-play ability could come in handy against the Cowboys, especially considering Penny’s strengths running outside the tackles away from traffic.
Ed Dickson, Tight End
Opening the season on the Non-Football Injury list, Dickson wasn’t available for the Seahawks 24-13 Week 3 win against the Cowboys. In 10 games since being activated, he’s only caught a total of 12 passes, but he’s been a weapon in the red zone for Wilson, catching three touchdowns. Dallas will be dedicating a lot of attention to trying to slow down Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin, who also didn’t play the first time these teams met in September, leaving room for Dickson to make an impact in the passing game. Look for Wilson to target him at least once in the red zone.
Poona Ford, Defensive Tackle
Returning to Texas for the first time as an NFL player, Ford should see significant snaps alongside Jarran Reed to help slow down Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott. The undrafted rookie didn’t suit up back in Week 3, as the Seahawks deactivated him as a healthy scratch. Over the past month, however, he’s forced his way onto the field, recording 17 tackles and a quarterback hit during the last five games. He’s also proven to be a very instinctual player, as he sniffed out a screen to Cardinals running back David Johnson last weekend. He has a shot to be a real difference maker plugging up gaps and disrupting the Cowboys run game.
Dion Jordan, Defensive End
Hindered by chronic knee issues, Jordan hasn’t lived up to the one-year tender he signed this offseason, finishing the year with only 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks. But prior to being held out for precautionary reasons in the season finale, he had his best game of the season against the Chiefs, forcing a key fumble and sacking Patrick Mahomes. The Seahawks need someone not named Frank Clark to create some pressure against Prescott off the edge and it’s worth noting that Jordan played very well against the Cowboys in their regular season meeting last December, sacking Prescott once and finishing with two quarterback hits. The Seahawks would love to see a repeat performance on the biggest stage.
Tedric Thompson, Free Safety
There may not be a single Seahawk facing more pressure in this game than Thompson, who was given the impossible task of trying to replace Earl Thomas when his season came to an end in Week 4. Thomas had two interceptions against the Cowboys the first time these teams met, leaving a major void in the rematch. It’s been an up-and-down season for the second-year safety out of Colorado, as he recorded 57 tackles and an interception in 14 games before chest and ankle injuries prevented him from playing the last two weeks. Due to a season-ending injury for safety Delano Hill, he’ll be expected to return to the starting lineup without missing a beat. Prescott will likely test him early, trying to take advantage of the fact Thomas isn’t patrolling center field this time around.