Seahawks setting their sights on Kellen Clemens

Posted Oct 26, 2013

The Seahawks’ No. 2-ranked defense couldn’t know Sam Bradford any better. But he’s out for Monday night’s game, so the preparation has switched to a Rams QB they know better than you might expect: Kellen Clemens.

The Seahawks’ No. 2-ranked defense doesn’t just have the book on Sam Bradford, it helped write it.

Having faced Bradford six times in the past three seasons, the Seahawks’ defenders knew every nook and cranny of his game. They had beaten Bradford, and the St. Louis Rams, four times. They had intercepted him in each of those six games, and also sacked him 17 times. They had held him to fewer than 200 passing yards three times. Even in last year’s loss in St. Louis, the Rams did not score an offensive touchdown.

But Bradford will not play in Monday night’s game against the Seahawks in St. Louis, or any more games this season for that matter. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a loss to the Panthers in Carolina last Sunday that dropped the Rams’ record to 3-4 and their fortunes even lower.

So instead of Bradford, the Seahawks are preparing to face … Kellen Clemens?

The former University of Oregon QB entered the NFL in 2006, but he has not started a game since 2011 – and Monday night will be only the, gulp, 13th start of his 8½-season career. On Halloween Eve Eve Eve, no less, and with the fifth game of the World Series between the Cardinals and Boston Red Sox being played just down the street in downtown St. Louis.

How can the Seahawks possibly be as well prepared to face Clemens as they would have been if the starter had been Bradford? The slightest of smiles that curls on the corners of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s mouth when asked about Clemens is a good place to start.

Quinn, as it turns, was the New York Jets’ defensive line coach in 2007-08 – and Clemens made eight of his career starts in ’07 for the Jets, who had selected him the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Also on the Jets’ staff was Brian Schottenheimer, now the Rams’ offensive coordinator.

“Generally it is,” Quinn said when asked about preparing for a QB his defense has not seen in the flesh. “One thing that we do have is that I was with Kellen Clemens in New York, so I do have some familiarity with him and I know the talent he has.

“He’s been with Brian Schottenheimer a long time, all the way back to 2006 in New York. … We certainly know about him and what he can do.”

And what is that? “He’s really a tough, competitive, smart guy,” Quinn said. “And they say he’s a little bit of a gunslinger. You can see that because, like most tough, competitive guys, they want to keep fighting and keep seeing if he can make the throw and get it in.

“Those are things that I remember about him from our time together in New York.”

And there is video of Clemens to be studied. From the fourth quarter of last week’s game, when Clemens was 2 of 4 for 19 yards and also sacked twice after stepping in for Bradford. And also from the preseason, when Clemens completed 48.9 percent of his passes (23 of 47) for 349 yards with two touchdown passes and four interceptions for a 52.5 passer rating.

And it’s not like the Rams have had time to rework their entire offense to make it more Clemens friendly. Coach Jeff Fisher said this week that they will stay the course and also added of Clemens, “We’re going to cut him loose.”

That could include Clemens using that gunslinger mentality the Quinn mentioned – and arm – to test the Seahawks deep because if the Rams’ offense has anything it’s speed at the wide receiver position: Tavon Austin, the rookie who has a team-leading 29 receptions, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February; Austin Pettis, who is third on the team with 25 receptions, had the fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.88 seconds) by a receiver at the 2011 combine; and Chris Givens, who has 18 catches for a 16.4-yard average, ran a 4.35-second 40 at the combine last year.

And that, of course, will mean testing a Seahawks defense that ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (11), average passing yards allowed (190.6) and opponent passer rating (66.1).

“I think Richard Sherman has said multiple times and spoken about how talented they are, and he’s absolutely right,” Clemens said this week during a conference-call interview. “They are a very good secondary.”

And what does Sherman have to say about Clemens?

“He’s a good quarterback,” Sherman said. “He makes good decisions. He puts some zip on the ball. He throws the deep ball well. We’ve been preparing for him just as we would prepare for Sam Bradford.”

That’s because Bradford, the QB they know so well, won’t play. And Clemens, the QB they know better than you might expect, will.