Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears: Can Jay Cutler escape 'Leo' and the 'Elephant'

Jay Cutler

Can Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler escape the Seattle Seahawks fifth-ranked defense this Sunday? More specifically can he escape Seattle's "Leo" and their "Elephant?"

Those names denote the positions played by Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. The two defensive linemen are the players who make Seattle's hybrid defensive schemes work.

The Seahawks' defense can best be described as a mix of 4-3 and 3-4 fronts. This blending is achieved by a particular use of specific personnel.

Bryant is the first key figure. At 6'4" and 323 pounds, he is a hulking force who is the focal point of Seattle's run defense.

The Seahawks utilise his size in a position they refer to as "Elephant." In any other defense, Bryant would work along the interior.

For the Seahawks, he aligns outside as a five-technique defensive end, directly over an offensive tackle.

With Bryant occupying the tackle and often a guard, the Seahawks frequently walk a linebacker up to his side. This creates a heavy front and plenty of blitzing opportunities.

This aggressive alignment is completed by its most important piece, the "Leo." Clemons plays this role, which is a combination of linebacker and end.

The "Leo" is a rush player with some coverage duties. He is able to pass rush from a standing position, or from a three-point stance.

The Seahawks like to move Clemons and his understudy in the role, rookie Bruce Irvin, around the formation. This causes confusion in opposing blocking schemes.

Whenever the "Leo" drops into pass coverage, the Seahawks have an extra defender in their underneath zones. If he's in coverage, they can also replace him on the rush with a blitzing linebacker or defensive back.

The "Leo" lends Seattle's defense its true flexibility.

This multiple front is the challenge facing Cutler and the Bears' offense. Their biggest problem could be avoiding the pass rush.

Clemons and Irvin have combined for 15 sacks this season. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll also likes to bring extra blitzers to supplement his front.

Although the Seahawks have managed just 29 sacks, that's bad news for the Bears.

Chicago's offensive line is one of the worst in football. They have allowed 35 sacks this season, in addition to 105 over the previous two seasons.

Particular low points came in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers and Week 11 against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers sacked Cutler seven times, while 49ers' rush end Aldon Smith registered 5.5 on his backup, Jason Campbell.

The Bears will feel confident at home against a Seahawks team that has won only once on the road. But turning their home advantage into a win, will depend on how well they protect Cutler.

The "Leo" and "Elephant" are not mere gimmicks. They are dangerous defensive weapons on the Seahawks' front.

If Cutler can't escape them, Seattle could spring the upset.

image: © mikemorbeck