FRISCO, Texas -- The Seattle Seahawks have been coached by Pete Carroll since 2010, and they have had a vision in which they use to build out their secondary: tall, lengthy, physical cornerbacks. From the "Legion of Boom" days that featured outside cornerbacks Richard Sherman (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and Brandon Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) to today's group -- Pro Bowl, second-year corner Riq Woolen (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and 2023 fifth-overall pick Devon Witherspoon (6-foot, 185 pounds) -- Carroll has a type. That's something the Dallas Cowboys (8-3) have clearly noted as they ready to host the Seattle Seahawks (6-5) on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 13.
"I've respected what their play style is, how they play, I think that's consistent," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think when you look at coaches that have coached a long time, your teams have an identity that is pretty consistent in your time there. Pete's background being a defensive coach, as far as the way they play and the importance of the run game, I think they're definitely doing some unusual things from a formation standpoint that will challenge you during the course of the week in the prep."
Woolen's eight career interceptions are tied for the third-most in the NFL since 2022 with Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III. Six of those occurred in 2022, which co-led the league. Witherspoon, meanwhile, has 14 passes defended and three sacks this season. He is one of nine players with such a season in the past 18 years, and that list includes two Hall of Famers (Charles Woodson in 2008 and Brian Dawkins in 2005) and one future Hall of Famer (JJ Watt in 2012).
"You study the tape and you see not only, we call them POA tapes, the profiles of each guy, what do you think their strengths are," McCarthy said Sunday when asked about the Seahawks' length at corner. "Also being in touch with our guys. We don't have just one body type at receiver, either. Just focus on those things, and those all factor into the routes that you may try and may not try."
The routes they may try in order to spring Pro Bowl receiver CeeDee Lamb, whose 1,066 receiving yards rank as the third-most in the NFL, could be quicker developing ones off of the line of scrimmage -- slants, out routes, etc. -- in order to avoid getting Lamb tangled up during the route progression.
"First of all they're tall and fast," Lamb said Monday when asked about facing Witherspoon and Woolen. "That's game-breaking, to have that type of length on the outside is easy for them. You really have to work your technique versus those guys. They're smart, they're young, they're fast, they're passionate about the game. It's going to be a great time. ... As far as what it looks like (going against them), there's only one way to show you. As far as game-planning and trying to exert as much effort as I possibly can just getting open early on the route. Obviously can't let those guys beat us up at the line of scrimmage. Got to get into the route and make them cover."
Lamb, who measures at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, has the same amount of catches (39) at both the outside receiver positions and the slot receiver positions in 2023, so McCarthy has plenty of options of how he will opt to utilize Lamb in the game.
"Understanding their size and their ability to attack, cover ground and cover up receivers a lot of time with their size, for us, it's about being physical on the outside and allowing them, a very handsy team, not allowing them to get their hands on us," Dak Prescott said Monday." Just being physical. We have a confident group. ... We'll be fine. Yeah, I think you have to do that [get off the line of scrimmage and into the route quickly] in the sense of when you're playing a bigger corner. That's kind of [Lamb's] film study, what he realizes he needs to win on is big guys like that want to get their hands on you early and then they hang with you. So if he can win early in the route, it's only going to allow more separation on the back end."
No player has a higher expected points added per target in the NFL than Lamb's 0.62, and his 2.76 yards per route run rank as the second-most in the league, trailing only All-Pro Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill's 4.02 among the 69 players who have run at least 300 routes this season. There's no doubt the Cowboys will go Lamb's way all night long as well as the fact that Woolen and Witherspoon will be waiting to get their hands on him. Get the popcorn ready.