5 signs the Seahawks have the worst defense in the NFL
Seaside Joe 1300: It's not about Geno Smith right now
The Seahawks defense does not worry me anymore today than it would have back in March. Is Seattle’s defense worse than I expected? Yes, because I did not expect the Seahawks to have the worst defense in the NFL. And if they did end up 32nd in yards or points allowed, or near the bottom, I would have assumed that there was a lot of context baked in there about an offense that fails to achieve first downs.
It’s not as though it was fair to assume at any point this year that the Seahawks have the talent on defense to be a formidable unit—and personnel always, always, always trumps coaching and matchups.
Following the selections of Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin in 2012, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have consistently failed to strike gold—or even get lucky—with their defensive draft picks. From 2013 to 2021, the closest thing to “hits” on that side of the ball are Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and now Cody Barton.
Of the four who remain on the team (Jefferson left and returned), is there a single standout? Carroll is hinting towards a benching for Taylor. Brooks and Barton lead a run defense that could be the worst in the league. Jefferson is a complementary rotational piece. Over a period of nine drafts, Seattle has not managed to come away with one Maxx Crosby, one J.C. Jackson, one Darius Leonard, or one Richard Sherman.
And they’ve tried.
Though I have long excused the Seahawks for their draft shortcomings because Seattle was always picking so late (and that does matter a lot), it is still a struggle to accept that their day two and day three picks on defense as anything under than underwhelming when you measure the entire cast of characters.
Not one standout. Even Clark and Griffin, for being good picks and great values, are not exceptional players. If they were, they wouldn’t have been able to leave or get traded from the Seahawks.
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Maybe that changes with the 2022 class. Boye Mafe, Tariq Woolen, and Coby Bryant offer more reasons to believe than many of their predecessors did as rookies. And maybe Pete and John are the right people to pick Seattle’s next crop of defensive talent in 2023. But the ledger can’t be changed from what it is over the last decade and the Seahawks are not left with much more than inexperienced gazelles still looking to find their balance on the field and veterans who might not be starting for many other defenses around the NFL.
So having a bad defense doesn’t surprise me. Having the worst defense doesn’t even worry me because Seattle’s ceiling as a team overall was not one that I thought could reach the playoffs anyway. This would feel a lot worse if the Seahawks had a top-ranked offense that couldn’t outscore their opponents.
Don’t take these five signs as a message to the world that the sky is falling in Seattle…That is a warning that has been coming for many years and the Seahawks are super unlikely to find any upgrades during the 2022 season anyway.
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t29th in Yards per Play allowed
For the second year in a row, the Seahawks could lap the field in total defensive plays. Seattle’s bend-don’t-break philosophy seems to be doing more to crush the players who can’t get off of the field than it is suffocating opponents once they get near the red zone.
There was some change in that on Sunday as the Seahawks “only” had 57 defensive snaps against the Falcons. Carroll wanted to go more up-tempo and Seattle’s offensive ran 69 or so plays against Atlanta. (Other places have them at 71, which might just include the Falcons’ two penalties.)
However, that means that the Seahawks defense allowed 386 yards on 57 plays. They were gashed by Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Mariota, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London for 229 passing yard and 179 rushing yards. It’s a little harder to win time of possession when your offense is breaking off huge chunks against the opposing defense, as Atlanta’s was against Seattle’s defense.
The Seahawks lack premier personnel on defense and it is showing. To what degree coaching and scheme should be blamed is an argument that has no ending—for me, a better culprit is the lack of day two and day three draft jackpots. Seattle has only hit on a few draft picks from the 2013-2021 era and they’re mostly all on the offensive side of the ball. Taylor’s poor start to the season doesn’t bode well for one of the only defensive draft picks that fans were optimistic about.
The Seahawks are allowing 6.3 yards per play. Only the Cardinals, Titans, and Ravens are doing worse. Baltimore has forced eight turnovers though, twice as many as Seattle.
The Seahawks have faced Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Marcus Mariota
Wilson has struggled to gel with the Broncos so far. Through three games, he’s completing 59% off his passes, is averaging 7.0 Y/A, has a passer rating of 83.2, and he has only thrown two touchdowns over 12 quarters. The Broncos have scored 43 points in three games, ranking 30th in points right now.
Garoppolo took the entire summer off, didn’t suit up in training camp or preseason, and then came off the sidelines straight into replacing Trey Lance moments into Week 2’s game against Seattle. He wasn’t great, but against the Seahawks he wasn’t bad either and San Francisco scored 27 points. Against Denver on Sunday Night Football, Garoppolo was much worse, sacked four times, picked off, and he had a safety. Trent Williams missed part of the game but played in the majority of it. The 49ers scored 10 points.
Mariota had his most productive game with the Falcons so far and his 11.45 Y/A average against Seattle ranks as the sixth-best of his career. The 20.84 expected points added in Week 3 was by far Atlanta’s best offensive performance of the season.
The Seahawks are 31st in net yards per pass attempt allowed. That would be bad even if Seattle had faced Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Tom Brady. Instead, they’ve faced quarterbacks who rank 12th, 21st, and 28th in QBR.
Seahawks don’t have any players with more than one sack
Through three weeks, the only two teams that don’t have a player with more than one sack are the Seahawks and Giants; New York doesn’t play their third game until Monday night.
Seattle does have six players with one sack each (teams like the Cardinals and Raiders only have one player who even has one sack, but J.J. Watt and Maxx Crosby each have two), but there isn’t a single standout pass rusher on the entire defense.
The exception there for 2022 might be Uchenna Nwosu, as he does have six quarterback hits through three games. But Nwosu’s career-high over his previous four seasons, usually when playing opposite of an all-world player in Joey Bosa, was five sacks. Can we really expect Nwosu to double that total on a much worse defense?
We don’t want to overrate sack totals here at Seaside Joe. However, it is not a coincidence that the pass rushers who get praised for being elite are also the ones who get to the quarterback a lot, force third-and-long situations and punts, and give opposing tackles nightmares before game day.
Pete Carroll says that he wants Mafe and Darryl Johnson to play more. That must mean that Taylor is going to play less. Not a good sign for Seattle’s best pass rushing hope going into the season and a question of whether or not Taylor had earned the right to be a Week 1 starter; was it not clear to the coaching staff in practices that Taylor was awful against the run and lacking explosiveness as a pass rusher?
We knew going into the season that the Seahawks were likely lacking a premier edge rusher, with Nwosu and Taylor providing the most amount of hope, followed only be Mafe. Now that we’ve seen three regular season games, it appears that we can cross Taylor off of the list for now, meaning that a second round rookie who was expected to need time to develop is Seattle’s best hope for a 2022 breakout.
As I wrote in Sunday’s bonus post about building blocks and needs, the Seahawks have three edge rushers who seem locked into the plans for 2023. But what the Seahawks do not have is a Watt, a Bosa, a Myles Garrett, or a Crosby. There’s a distinct possibility that Seattle will end this season without a player who has more than five sacks and Taylor (6.5) was the only returning Seahawk who had more than two sacks last season.
t31st in rushing yards allowed
If there’s one thing a Carroll defense is expected to do, it is stop the run. That has not been the case in 2022 and teams are eager to run the ball against a defense that they should be just as eager to pass the ball against. Like in the preseason, the Seahawks have one of the worst missed tackle rates in the NFL despite the personnel being entirely different than the exhibition season.
Seattle has now allowed 103, 189, and 179 rushing yards in each of their first three games. The Seahawks were similarly disjointed as a run defense to open 2021: They allowed over 100 yards in each of the first six games before settling down. But they also faced Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, and Dalvin Cook to open last year.
This one feels worse. And much different than the 2020 defense that ranked fifth in rushing yards allowed.
The Seahawks face the Lions in Week 4 and even though D’Andre Swift has already been ruled out because of a shoulder injury, Detroit’s strength comes from the offensive line. It would be surprising if Jamaal Williams and company are held to less than 100 yards and since the Lions are getting about 5.0 yards BEFORE contact (first in the NFL), it’s possible that they get at least double that mark.
Now if that doesn’t scare you, how about Jared Goff having a great game against the Seahawks secondary?
The Seahawks rank 32nd in Y/A allowed and 32nd in EPA vs pass
If you can’t run on ‘em, pass on ‘em. If you can run on ‘em, still pass on ‘em. In fact, why not both?
The Seahawks are allowing 8.8 yards per pass attempt, which is 0.4 more than the next-worst team. Seattle has faced those quarterbacks and passing offenses that I’ve already mentioned, making the situation seem even more dire. The Seahawks also rank 32nd in EPA allowed against the pass at -52.92; 31st place is 49.61 (AZ) and 30th place is -32.3 (NYJ) so the gap is WIDE between Seattle and 30 other teams.
Despite this, Carroll has already said that the team is confident with Mike Jackson and Tariq Woolen as the starting cornerbacks. Artie Burns could return in Week 4, but Burns has not had a good career. To have hope for Burns would be more unexpected than having hope for Sidney Jones IV, yet Jones IV seems to already have one foot out the door.
The one player who seems to be waiting in the wings as a sign for hope is Tre Brown. The Seahawks fourth round pick in 2021 is on PUP, meaning he could be eligible to return after Week 4.
It would be unfair to expect a whole lot of change on defense just because Seattle got back Brown midway through the year and Brown still needs to get warmed up since he also missed all of training camp and preseason.
Goff is not a good quarterback. However, the Lions are second in points scored right now and Goff has actually played better than any of the three quarterbacks who the Seahawks have faced so far. If Seattle struggled to cover the receivers they’ve seen to this point, then Amon-Ra St. Brown presents another challenge that will be tough to meet for these cornerbacks and defensive players.
Despite ranking 20th in points allowed after three games, the Seahawks may not have as much luck against the Lions. It feels like teams are happy to pump the brakes and score less against Seattle, so long as they end up winning the game. Dan Campbell may not be so inclined to take it easy and it’s up to the Seahawks to step up to the challenge…or questions about the defense won’t get any easier to answer.
I expected the offense to be a lot worse than it is and the defense to be a bit better than it is. I just hope they get better as the season rolls along. There are plenty of mistakes from which to learn.
Setting The Edge- Once they let K.J. Wright go last year, the Seahawk defense has left the edge wide open, to be run over every game so far this year. The rookies are not staying home to play their positions. I agree with you Ken, it appears that Pete and John may have gotten lucky putting together a SB team the first time around ? Now they have to prove IF they still have that magic to put together a winning 'Dynasty'. After 3 games, no doubt in my mind, they are in a rebuild mode !