By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON— To Michael Bennett, quarterbacks are often football’s version of Brussels sprouts.
The Seahawks defensive end doesn’t like either, yet he knows both are necessary, one for nutrition, and one because it’s football’s highest-profile position.
“It’s almost like when you’re a kid and your mom gives you Brussels sprouts; you need them but they taste nasty,” Bennett said. “And that’s how I feel about quarterbacks. You need them, but they taste nasty. That’s how I feel about the quarterbacks.”
Quarterbacks, Bennett says, get all the attention, deserved or not, while people in the trenches often go overlooked.
“Who knows the defensive linemen?” Bennett said. “Every one in a while you hear about a (Jadeveon) Clowney or somebody, but pretty much we go unknown. … Unless they can dance and they’re good looking, so me, I don’t have a problem.”
It’s not that Bennett personally dislikes quarterbacks as much as that he marvels at how well some of them are paid despite not being particularly good at what they do.
“Quarterback is the only position where you can be mediocre and get paid,” Bennett said, bringing up players, without naming them, who have made a ton of money without winning a lot of games or putting up big numbers.
But while plenty of, to use Bennett’s term, mediocre quarterbacks are handsomely rewarded, the quarterback opposing the Seahawks in Thursday’s season opener is no Brussels sprout, Bennett says.
“He’s more like a green bean,” Bennett said of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “He’s a good quarterback. He’s won an MVP, won a championship.
“He’s an expensive vegetable. You get him at Whole Foods, not Safeway. He’s a great quarterback.”
And if you’re thinking I took all that time just to get to the point that the Seahawks are facing a very good quarterback and a very good offense in their season opener simply to include a bunch of funny quotes from Bennett, well, guilty as charged.
As much as Thursday’s game will be a chance for fans to celebrate a championship as the Seahawks raise a banner at CenturyLink Field, and as much as people will inevitably want to bring up the last meeting between these two teams, the infamous “Fail Mary” game for 2012, what this game really is, is an intriguing matchup between two of the NFL’s best teams, between one of the best offenses in football and the league’s best defense, and yes, a test for Seattle’s defense when it faces some Whole Foods-quality produce.
“It’s a great challenge to see where we’re at, just a chance to start the season off right,” said cornerback Byron Maxwell, who is sure to be tested by Rodgers and the Packers passing attack. “We’re confident we’ll be able to hold up and do the job.
“They’ve got some good, versatile guys, guys who can do it all. Randall Cobb, he goes inside and outside, Jordy Nelson as well. They can all catch the ball well. It’s a big challenge for us.”
What makes the challenge of facing the Packers even more daunting this season is, in part, what limited them last year. On the way to a title in 2010 and a 15-1 record the following season, the Packers relied heavily on Rodgers, and for good reason. In 2011 he put up one of the best statistical seasons by a quarterback in history, and in 2012 he was again one of the game’s best passers. But when Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone midway through last season, the Packers had to rely more on rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who finished the season with 1,178 rushing yards.
“(Lacy’s emergence) paired with the fact that I was out for a while at the same time, we had to find some different ways to move the football effectively and Eddie did a great job for us giving us some balance,” Rodgers said on a conference call. “Kind of tipping the scale the other way, we ran the ball at times more than we threw it. He did a great job for us.”
Now with Rodgers back, that more balanced Packers offense could be tougher to handle than ever. That’s why while Bennett respects Rodgers more than he does the Brussels sprouts-variety of quarterbacks around the league, he first mentioned Lacy when asked about the challenge facing Seattle’s defense.
“It’s a great test to play against a 240-pound running back,” Bennett said. “You obviously get to see what the tackling’s going to be like. A key point will be how many missed tackles there are going to be. If we don’t have a lot of missed tackles, it’ll be a great game.”
It should be a great game, because it represents the opposite of a soft landing for both teams. While college powerhouses across the country are tuning up against weak, small-conference opponents in early September, the Packers and Seahawks face off in what many believe could be a preview of the NFC championship game. And there’s the added intrigue of a strength vs. strength battle in the form of Green Bay’s offense and Seattle’s defense.
“There’s a challenge at every level,” Rodgers said of Seattle’s defense. “They’re really talented up front. As good as they come on the back end with the safety/corner combination and they’re very talented, long, rangy, and athletic. They’re very physical in the linebacker group. So they can throw a lot of different personnel groupings, a lot of different guys lined up in different spots at you. Then they could just rush four and lock you down outside and inside. This is as talented a defense as you’re going to see in the league and we’re getting them in Week 1.”
In other words, there will be high-quality produce all over the field Thursday night.