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NFL Draft

Seahawks’ Defense Continues To Limit Russell Wilson’s Ceiling

  • The Draft Network
  • September 28, 2021
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A 28-16 season-opening victory seems like a long time ago considering where the Seattle Seahawks have found themselves heading into Week 4. Having allowed 30 points in each of their last two games, both losses, the Seattle defense is searching for answers as they prepare for the San Francisco 49ers.

"We need more," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We need to be more effective, we have not disrupted the quarterback. Our guys are working on it. They're busting their tails to get it, we just need to work together. I think the whole thing just needs to work together tighter.”

A defense once feared by the league just a handful of seasons ago has now become a unit to “get right” against. And accordingly, a once-opportunistic defensive group littered with playmakers and pop at all three levels has quickly become an anchor to the overall projection for success in Seattle.

"We've been through a lot, and the leadership can speak on a lot of different topics and help guys understand how things go.. [but] We've got to take care of business in here."

Allowing an NFL-worst 440.3 yards per game, the Seahawks and defensive coordinator Ken Norton have run out of excuses. While Seattle faithful have called for the departure of Norton for some time, the early-season defensive performances have shown a light on the inexcusable tendencies and week-to-week antics Norton has continued to deploy on Sundays.

In their consecutive losses to Tennessee and Minnesota, the Seahawks forced four punts out of 20 non-kneel-down drives. The other 16 possessions included six touchdowns, seven field goals, one missed FG attempt, a fumble recovery, and a turnover on downs. Teams have scored on 13 of their 20 possessions, good for an embarrassing 65% clip, and they’ve also allowed the third-most yards on the ground per game (155). It’s been an all-around debacle through three weeks, and the root of the problem has become ever apparent.

Heading into Week 4, the Seahawks run the most static defense in all of football. But, what do I mean by static?

It’s exactly what you’re thinking. Bland, basic, boring, all of the adjectives that come to mind fit the current game plan Norton has deployed this season. On 92% of their defensive snaps so far this year, how the Seahawks align pre-snap has proved to be exactly the coverage they are running. For example, if Seattle shows a single-high safety look prior to the snap, there’s a high chance they will run a single-safety look for the duration of the play. Furthermore, if Norton opts to show two-high safeties or a quarters look with his outside corners, there’s a 92% chance that’s the coverage they will deploy.

All in all, it’s a recipe for disaster. Look at it in baseball terms. If you know what the pitcher is throwing, you can sit back, lick your chops, and swing for the fences all day long. Whether you want to run the football, deploy play-action, or take deep shots, aligning pre-snap consistently with the exact coverage you’re running presents zero confusion for signal-callers and offensive coordinators at the NFL level. While in years past this tactic could have been serviceable, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor no longer don the action-green garb of Seattle’s threads, and a game plan attempting to mirror past players is ludicrous.

With just one playoff win since 2016, there’s no way around ignoring the ever-apparent reality that is the current burden of blame for the Pacific Northwest’s poster child. With future Hall of Fame talent Bobby Wagner joining Russell Wilson in Canton when things are all said and done, the scope of Seattle’s future has become as muddy as ever due to the lack of serviceable punch and ideal schematic alignment from up top on the defensive side of the football.

While Wilson continues to serve as one of the league’s best in all major passing categories, just how much more can the seven-time Pro Bowler do to keep Seattle afloat in a dog-eat-dog NFC West? That’s a question Carroll has hoped to avoid with the desired improvement from Norton’s unit.

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