The Shadow Knows Week 10 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport

The time has come. It has been earned through hard work and sweat and performance on the field at the game's highest level. This is the moment that every young player works for. One that can never be taken away from him.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen has made the intro for The Shadow Knows.

If this writer had a vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year (and he does-at least for the Pro Football Writers of America version of the award), right now it would go to Woolen. He has been better in his first season than Trevon Diggs was a year ago-and it's not especially close. Yes, Woolen hasn't made as many big plays. But his four interceptions are tied for second in the league, and unlike Diggs Woolen isn't giving up passing yards by the score.

That means 20. Not a touchdown. Try to keep up. I'm gushing.

As a matter of fact, not only is Woolen not getting roasted with the regularity that most rookie corners are, but he's being avoided. Per the Tacoma News-Tribune, over the last two games the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals have targeted Woolen all of four times-total. Woolen has the fourth-lowest passer rating against in the NFL. He has been fast. Agile. Smart. Productive when targeted. And as he told reporters, he's also fine with not being thrown at if it helps his team win.

"As long as I am in the game, we are making plays, we are doing the right thing, and we are all working together, it's a lot of fun," he said. "No matter if I get 100 balls thrown or zero, as long as I'm out there having fun, I don't really trip."

Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt made it clear that Seattle's coaches and teammates will do their part to keep the high-flying rookie grounded.

"We all stay in his ear," Hurtt said. "I stay in his ear. Karl Scott, (Seahawks Pro Bowl safety) Quandre Diggs, and his teammates. You don't want to be the guy where you start to relax thinking things won't start coming your way and you have stuff figured out. It's never like that, because this game will humble you really fast."

This week's meeting with Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers presents another stiff test-and a fascinating matchup. Evans is one of the most consistently productive wide receivers the NFL has ever seen-and the king of the big-bodied, contested-catch wideouts. He boxes defensive backs out like he's going up for a rebound instead of a football. But he's about to go up against something he has very rarely encountered-a cornerback with the same combination of height and speed he does,

You're going to start Mike Evans-because he's Mike Evans. But he's more WR2 than WR1 in Week 10, and frankly all the Tampa receivers get at least a minor downgrade against a Seattle defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to wide receivers this season.

Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders (Stephon Gilmore vs. Davante Adams)

The Colts and Raiders are seemingly locked in a race to build the bigger dumpster fire in 2022-the Colts have an awful quarterback and a neophyte head coach, while the Raiders never saw a lead they couldn't blow and just put half the pass-catching corps on injured reserve. But star wideout Davante Adams is still healthy-and ticked off over his lack of usage. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he doesn't want to hear about double-teams and gameplans. He wants targets.

"At the end of the day, if we're just going to concede and say, 'Oh, they double-teamed Tae, so it's forcing the ball to him if we threw it to him,' then I've got no business being in this building, because that's what teams are going to do," Adams said. "So, if you think that the only way I'm going to get the ball is when I'm singled up, then I'm going to have four catches on the year."

So, that honeymoon is over.

Much like Adams, Gilmore is a great player stuck on a bad team-the last team he was playing this well he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. But given his comments this week and the injuries in Vegas, Adams is the proverbial squeaky wheel. And no one can shut him down in a game where he's targeted 15-plus times.


Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (Amari Cooper vs. Xavien Howard)

The Miami Dolphins are off to one of their best starts in years, but while the offense has been rolling, the team's 23rd-ranked pass defense has been an issue. An injury to Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard played a role in those struggles, but Dolphins defensive backs coach Sam Madison told the Palm Beach Post that he expects a now-healthy Howard to start applying the clamps in short order.

"(Xavien's) a playmaker," Madison said. "And these little nicky-nack injuries, they can take a toll... Now, I think he feels comfortable. He's practiced very well, the last couple of weeks. So you just got to get his confidence back, knowing that he's healthy, and then whoever he's covering, he's just got to go out there and dominate."

If Howard truly is 100 percent, then this week's meeting with Amari Cooper and the Browns is a chance to show it. Cooper's raw numbers aren't eye-popping, but given Cleveland's limitations under center he's been everything the Browns expected when trading for him. He also has a robust 27.2 percent target share. At his best, Howard is an elite talent. But Cooper should earn enough volume to more-or-less be the WR2 he's been most of the season.




Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (Trevon Diggs vs. Allen Lazard)

There isn't a more polarizing cornerback in the NFL than Trevon Diggs. Supporters point to his uncanny knack for big plays. Detractors point to all the catches and yards he gives up in between them. While talking to a Dallas radio station, Cowboys defensive backs coach Al Harris said his message to Diggs has been to tune it all out and just play his game.

"We talk about that a lot," Harris said. "Honestly, he and I have a saying outside of the building: 'F whatever anybody else says, good or bad. So, we only concentrate on what we do in here, what's said in here. Any other voices outside of it, we don't even concern ourselves with. What people aren't seeing is that the kid is still young, still learning the position. So, he only has room to grow.'

Honestly, both camps are right. Diggs is immensely talented. But he tends to take chances when he doesn't need to, which results in big plays. But you can see in his second season that he's dialing back a bit. Focusing less on sizzle and more on steak. And the Dallas defense is better as a result. Diggs all but certainly won't track Lazard all game long. But the Green Bay passing game already has enough problems. Lazard being erased for a chunk of Sunday's game will probably be one too many-and given Aaron Rodgers' reluctance to take chances with the ball, when Diggs is on Lazard the eraser will be out.




Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks (Jamel Dean vs. DK Metcalf)

The 2022 season hasn't gone according to plan for the 4-5 Buccaneers. But after the Falcons spit the bit Thursday night in Charlotte, the Bucs are a win in Seattle away from claiming sole possession of first place in the NFC South. Per Mark Inabinnett of, Bucs corner Jamel Dean said the team just needs to get back to basics and play sound fundamental football.

"We just got to go back to the fundamentals," Dean said. "As the season goes on, you can tend to just lose it because you're just so stuck on game-planning that you just lose track of the basics. I like challenges because it brings out a different character in you. Adversity shows you who you are. When it comes, how do you respond to it?"

Unlike the last couple of years, the Bucs have actually been better against the pass than the run-Tampa is fifth in the NFL in pass defense and 17th in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers. Still, at worst this is a neutral matchup for Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and the Seahawks-who may well be the better team heading into this matchup.




Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jalen Ramsey)

In the interest of not singling out the aforementioned Davante Adams as the only star in the NFL who isn't dealing with adversity all that well, it's worth noting that Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey didn't just throw the Los Angeles offense under the bus after last week's last-second loss to Tampa-he commandeered the bus, backed it up and ran over the offense again.

"Gotta have some dogs who are like, man, f-k all that, we are going to end this game right now," he said. "Good stop. We are going to end the game for y'all. We gotta play off each other in that sense. You know what I mean? That's what I mean by we should not have had to go out there. It is what it is. It ain't the first time that this has happened. This has happened multiple times this year, really. S-t."

That Ramsey had little to say after getting roasted like a ham on long touchdowns by Gabriel Davis in Week 1 and Deebo Samuel in Week 4 is very Jalen Ramsey. But in his defense, he and the Rams defense have played well. But Ramsey is essentially sticking to his "Star" position (I didn't name it-maybe he did) inside and not tracking opposing No. 1 wideouts. Even if he was it wouldn't be a huge downgrade for Hopkins-not after 32 targets in three games since he returned.




Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles (Terry McLaurin vs. Darius Slay)

The Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL's lone remaining undefeated team. They are also about as well-rested as NFL teams get-thanks to the vagaries of this year's schedule, Monday's tilt with the Commanders will be just the third time the Eagles have played in 29 days. However, when asked by reporters whether the Eagles might be a little rusty, veteran cornerback Darius Slay wasn't hearing it.

"That's what we do," Slay said. "Y'all ain't talked to us in how long, and y'all find a way to still ask some good questions, don't you? You gotta (use the time to) critique your job. I mean, some of y'all do ask some (stupid) questions … Just locked in, we focused. Just work. That's our job."

The Eagles are third in the NFL in pass defense, and Slay deserves a big chunk of the credit for that-he's having one of the best seasons of his career and has even garnered some Defensive Player of the Year buzz. Slay and Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin have history against one another-six meetings since 2019. And to McLaurin's credit, he has won his fair share of reps against Slay. But the Eagles are a bottom-10 matchup for wide receivers, and garbage time numbers are the only reason that isn't worse. Terry ain't so scary in Week 10, although I'd still start him ahead of Curtis Samuel.