4 questions about the Seahawks defense
Seaside Joe 1267, 8/24/22: Forget the QB competition for a while because Seattle's questions on defense may be even more important for the future
Fans tend to have a delayed reaction to their team’s successes and failures. For example, the Mariners have proven capable of leading baseball in attendance figures, having ranked first in 2001 and 2002, then ranking second in 2003, two years after their last playoff game. And though the Mariners did drop to 10th in 2004, that’s still pretty good given that only two teams in baseball lost more games than Seattle’s 99 defeats that season.
Fans still showed up in 2005, ranking 12th in attendance, but the Mariners would fall further down the list through the years as it set in that “the 90’s are over, man.”
Even right now, many of you are reading this and thinking to yourselves, “Oh man, he’s talking about baseball! Baseball is cool again. I love the Mariners and baseball is cool,” despite the fact that personally, my gut is going walnuts over having to write about any other sport than NFL football. I’m a one-track mind with sports, I’m an NFL football guy and that’s all you have to worry about with Seaside Joe—I don’t get distracted, this is all I spend my sports time with—but I did follow baseball very closely for years and the Mariners are proving to be a perfect example for the point I’m making right now.
Seattle finally has a young superstar hitter again but they’re only 16th in attendance even the only two teams in the American League have won more games than the Mariners have won. “But just wait, the fans will start coming in droves if this continues.”
Yes! That’s what I’m saying! There’s a delay. A delay when you become good and a delay when you turn bad.
So why all this talk about the sport in which bats hit when the only thing that matters at Seaside Joe is the sport in which hats hit***?
Because I don’t think that every Seahawks fan is prepared for the fall. Maybe even the majority still expect success, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and I think that this is largely due to the fact that the franchise is not far removed from being great. In fact, they still haven’t even played a regular season game without Russell Wilson yet and it may not be until a month into the season or more that reality starts to set in for many fans who think that the 2022 Seahawks will resemble the 2012-2021 Seahawks.
DO NOT confuse this for negativity. DO NOT take this as a prediction of Seattle’s absolute demise. DO root for the Seahawks to do as well as they possibly frickin’ can.
I write about the Seahawks the same way that I would write about the 49ers, the Dolphins, or one of the baseball teams. What’s that one in Cleveland called? The Destroyers? But I have always strived to cover the Seahawks objectively—with the same view on the team as I would have if I grew up in Boston or Austin—and the broad view on Seattle’s present situation is that certain struggles seem unavoidable.
And even objectively, I still think I’ve written the best arguments for how the Seahawks can make the playoffs (or at least avoid being terrible) and why Geno Smith or Drew Lock could be as good as the 20th-best quarterback in the league…for one year at least.
Negativity? No. Reality? Sometimes it isn’t what you want to hear.
And what I don’t really want to hear for the next 48 hours is anymore wah-wah-wee-wah on Seattle’s quarterback competition. I’ve covered it as much as it needs to be covered until Friday’s game against the Cowboys. Pete Carroll told Mike Salk on Wednesday that Geno Smith will start and Drew Lock will play the majority of the game and as much as I see people wanting to read into that as a decision (like they have every other minor piece of news that enters the atmosphere), I’ll trust that perhaps nothing of value will be revealed until Saturday at the soonest and September at the latest.
So let’s give it a rest.
Besides, while the quarterback situation is undoubtedly Seattle’s most Achilles of all the heels, it is also serving as a distraction from plenty of other vulnerabilities set to present hurdles towards a successful 2022 campaign.
My only wish is that even if the Seahawks do go 3-14, setting aside the common requests for health and prospect development, that Pete Carroll be completely left alone. That’s been how people have treated the offseason so far, that Pete can fail without losing his job, but that will become much harder to fight off if losses do indeed start piling up.
Fans are happy to be patient when losing is only in theory.
It’s a lot harder to be patient when Sundays stop being fun anymore.
Questions go beyond quarterback and stretch onto a defense that is expected to have a lot of moving parts between now and 2023. While the safety positions are locked in for the long-term and there are a handful of exciting prospects in the front-seven, the Seahawks have a roster loaded with players yet to prove themselves as being ready to stop the best offensive weapons in the world come Week 1 and through to Week 18. We may have a much more positive outlook on the defense as the season goes on, but it’s not too soon to address the questions that will come up once the hat-hitting*** begins.
Also, I’ve been lurking other Substack newsletters and blogs recently, including the most popular ones in the world, sites with many 10s of 1000s of subscribers, and you know what I’ve noticed? Seaside Joe has MORE comments, MORE likes, and MORE shares than MOST of the top Substack newsletters. The Seahawks fan community and the Seaside Joe community is unlike any other and I’m grateful for it. Please keep it coming! If you haven’t joined the conversation yet, don’t be shy and consider saying “Hello” or sharing your thoughts! I’m just one person, it’s the Seaside Joe community that makes this entire thing possible and I do believe—100-PERCENT—that we will have accomplishments here that change how people view reporting on football.
Your support by signing up for the FREE edition or upgrading to premium for basically less than a dime per article and joining in on the bonus content is EXTREMELY appreciated—and again, the rate of people who subscribe for premium at Seaside Joe is more than double the Substack average. Hit this if you haven’t already, the more we grow, the more people will notice what’s happening over here:
Now for the Seahawks, I’ve also noticed what’s happening over there and these are the questions that need to be answered on defense while everyone else is distracted by the competition on Seattle’s offense:
Seahawks unproven pass rush
I checked with my banker and the statements “I am so excited for Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe, and Uchenna Nwosu” + “The Seahawks are likely to have a below-average pass rush unit in 2022” are actually not mutually exclusive. My banker went onto say, “What does this have to do with mutual funds? Weren’t you asking about mutual funds???” At which point, I hung up the phone.
While I do think that analytical statistics predictions are very silly, Seth Walder’s projections for sack total leaders does align with the national perception on Seattle’s edge rushers: Taylor is the only Seahawks player on the top-50 and he’s ranked 42nd.
Don’t get up in arms over the projected total of 5.8 because it’s the norm for projections to be conservative estimates; even T.J. Watt’s league-leading projection is “only” 12.8, well below the 22.5 he had last year. If Taylor is conservatively projected at 5.8, maybe he will break out for 10-12 sacks.
Playing alongside Joey Bosa and as a starting edge rusher in Brandon Staley’s defense with the Chargers in 2021, Nwosu managed five sacks over 782 snaps. Nwosu was “a little above average” in pass rush win rate and Walder noted that he’s 67th on his 2022 list. Not far behind is Alton Robinson with a projected total of 4.2 sacks and Walder believes that’s not bad given where he is in the Seahawks pecking order.
Then consider what a truly impressive rookie season would be for Mafe and I think “four sacks and survival” would be a very fair bar to reach. Last season’s rookies with a similar draft status included Odafe Oweh (five sacks), Kwity Paye, Gregory Rousseau, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (four sacks each), and only Micah Parsons, Jaelan Phillips, and Azeez Ojulari were rookies who had more than five sacks.
Clint Hurtt and Pete Carroll may intend to have a more aggressive pass rushing unit this season, but that doesn’t entirely make up for talent and experience. It’s fine to be bullish on Seattle’s front-seven. It’s unfair to ignore that this is a league with T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, Cam Jordan, Joey Bosa, Chandler Jones, Von Miller, etc. and if the Seahawks have an edge with talent on that level—we have yet to see it. Maybe we will.
Will Seahawks create interior pressure on the quarterback?
For the last eight years, it seems like the Seahawks will only go as far in the NFC West as Aaron Donald allows them to go.
Donald, the best non-quarterback I’ve watched play football over the last decade, was drafted by a Rams team that could not compete with Seattle. By the time Russell Wilson was traded eight years later, Donald has helped the Rams go 11-5 against the Seahawks, sacking Wilson 15 times with 41 QB hits and 24 tackles for a loss. On top of that, Donald helped L.A. reach the Super Bowl in two of the last four years, while Seattle has failed to reach the NFC Championship game even once since Donald’s rookie campaign.
The failure to get around Aaron Donald has not only cost the Seahawks the one or two wins necessary to win the division or up their playoff seeding, it has directly impacted them in the postseason like the wild card two years ago. It feels like Pete’s only good answer for Wilson’s inability to beat Donald was to trade Wilson.
“Oh you’re neutralizing the quarterback’s value? We’ll just get rid of the quarterback, how about that!”
Throughout his tenure, Pete has made numerous attempts to find his own interior pass rusher, a bizarro Donald, but to no avail. Through Jordan Hill’s numerous injuries to “The McDowell Mistake” to Sheldon Wishyoudidn’t, the Seahawks have yet to wow on that side of the trenches.
Perhaps this year will be different.
Though Al Woods is nothing new, it feels like he could be a variation on himself under Hurtt that we haven’t seen before. Seattle also extended Bryan Mone and seems high on former undrafted free agent Myles Adams. But without an expectation of being able to disrupt the quarterback from the interior, whether that’s Mone, Adams, or Poona Ford, the Seahawks could still be looking to fill that need in the 2023 draft.
Seahawks lack above-average starting cornerbacks
Sidney Jones IV had a high draft grade prior to tearing his Achilles at Washington’s pro day in 2017. He played in one game as a rookie, then nine games in year two, then 12 games, then nine games during his one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Seahawks were then able to test out Jones IV as a starter in 2021 and he appeared in all but one contest, with acceptable results.
It feels like PFF grades are simply a way for even the most casual of fans to be able to follow the sport:
But at what point do we ever start to go, “Oh okay, so these grades don’t seem to line up with perceptions among coaches, players, fans, the media, general managers…maybe it’s the grades that are oversimplifying football?”
Instead of following those numbers, I would instead suggest calling up my banker and following those numbers: money talks.
Money says that Sidney Jones was a free agent this year and he got a one-year, $3.6 million contract with the Seahawks. Seattle opted to not re-sign D.J. Reed, who got substantially more to go to the Jets.
Jones IV, who has already missed multiple weeks in training camp with a concussion, must not only stay healthy for an entire season again. He also has to play better, to be more feared by opposing quarterbacks than he currently is, and he needs to cause turnovers; Jones IV has zero interceptions with the Seahawks.
Now here’s the
kicker corner: Sidney Jones IV is by far Seattle’s most reliable cornerback!
Artie Burns has played in 21 games over the last three seasons and prior to that he was benched by the Pittsburgh Steelers for poor play. Justin Coleman has been let go by the Lions and Dolphins in each of the previous two years. Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant are rookies. Mike Jackson, Pete’s “camp star” of the group, is almost as old as Jones IV and has played in four career games with 29 career snaps.
These days there are not as many “star cornerbacks” as there used to be, or at least it really feels that way because being a quarterback or wide receiver has never been this easy. The league like-a the big passing numbers and they gonna get-a many more.
So I’m not going to go as hard on cornerbacks for giving up a touchdown or a lot of yards. But relatively speaking, the Seahawks—who are ranked 27th in CB spending this year and 31st in 2023—are as untested and wobbly as any group in the NFL.
Is Cody Barton going to start 17 games—and do it well?
I’ve known “Lord Adorable” @darthkripple for many many years and this is so on-brand:
It’s also a common sentiment heard on one side of the most controversial argument on the team outside of quarterback: Is Cody Barton any good?
The depth at linebacker is HORRIBLE, so he better be.
The reviews on Barton are all over the map and so I don’t have any good answers for you, only the question: Is Cody Barton good? He’s been in the NFL for three years, he’s been blocked at linebacker for the most part, he’s capable of making a lot of tackles, they say that he’s fast on the field.
Yet, I don’t care what they say, I care what Pete and Hurtt do. If Barton starts 17 games and plays in near-100 percent of the snaps, that says a lot. If Pete Carroll thinks for any moment that he’d like to see someone else next to Jordyn Brooks, with these options behind Barton, that will say even more.
If you have questions about the defense that I forgot, add them in the comments! If Seaside Joe grows tenfold, the people at Substack are gonna start contacting me to figure out why this site is “glitching” because they’ve never seen engagement like this before!