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The Cary Williams Effect

It has been five full games since Cary Williams has played for the Seahawks. His presence was controversial from the moment his signing was announced. Enough time has passed that we can get some idea of how his presence impacted the Seahawks defense.

The comparison

Williams was the starter into the Seahawks tenth game against the 49ers, before being benched for the second half of that contest. Throwing that game out allows us to see what the Seahawks looked like when Williams was on the field versus the games when he did not play at all. 

The basics

Points Allowed Yards Allowed 3rd Down % Red Zone %
With CW 19.9 303.3 34% 45%
Without CW 15.8 280.4 38% 36%
Seattle allowed 30 points and 538 yards to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, but still are allowing far fewer points and yards since Williams was shown the bench, and eventually, the road. The 3rd down numbers are concerning. The Seahawks allowed Johnny Manziel and the Browns to convert 50% of their 3rd down chances last week and Case Keenum to convert 42% this week.

Red zone is a pretty massive drop. Anyone who watched the Seahawks earlier in the year saw the backbreaking mishaps in the red zone. Cincinnati stands out in that regard, both Tyler Eifert touchdowns were Williams’ responsibility, per Pete Carroll.

Having DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane and Marcus Burley step in after Williams has reduced mistakes. These are not lockdown corners, but the hope has been that just being assignment correct could improve Seattle’s red zone numbers. Early returns suggest that has been the case.

The passing game

Passer Rating YPA CMP % TD INT 100 YD Rec
With CW 87.4 6.9 62.4% 9 4 4
Without CW 68.2 6.3 60.4% 3 7 1

Since the dawn of the Legion of Boom back in 2012, Seattle has always had more interceptions than opponent touchdowns passes. They were regularly in the 60s or low 70s in opponent passer rating. That was not the case with Williams back there.

The Seahawks allowed more than twice as many touchdowns as interceptions with Williams in the lineup. They have completely reversed that after his departure.

The combined passer rating against the Seahawks from 2012-2014 was 71.8, their YPA was 6.1, and their completion rate was 59.5%. Those are very similar numbers to what Seattle has posted since Williams left. 

It is easy to point to the quarterbacks the Seahawks have faced as the reason, but that does not really hold water. Roethlisberger put up a ton of yards, but had a low 80s passer rating due to two interceptions and just one touchdown pass. Teddy Bridgewater is the second-highest rated passer in the NFL the last three weeks. Yes, Seattle faced Jimmy Clausen, Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel, but they faced Clausen, Nick Foles, Colin Kapernick, and Matt Cassell the first half of the season.

Better, but big test ahead

There is little doubt the Seahawks defense has improved since taking Williams out of the lineup. He was a weak spot that other teams could pick on at will, and regularly made assignment errors that led to crippling plays. Much of that has been cleaned up. 
Seattle will face the best quarterback in the NFL this year in Arizona this week. You can count on the Cardinals making some big plays. They do it against everyone. That has never been the measure of the Seahawks secondary. Even Peyton Manning piled up big passing numbers against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. The better way to measure Seattle is whether they can hold the opposing QB below their standard. Keeping Carson Palmer in the 80s or low 90s for passer rating instead of his customary 100+ would be a good sign. 
Williams was a poor decision by Kris Richard. He sounds as if he has learned from it. The talk of being able to teach people their technique has turned to a realization that bringing in veteran corners might not be the best way to go. If Tharold Simon had managed to ever be healthy, he would have almost certainly ascended to the starting spot earlier, and games could have been saved. The Williams experience was a painful one, but one that the Seahawks hopefully have learned from. Richard and the coaching staff deserve credit for recognizing the problem and addressing it midseason instead of letting it drag the team down any further.

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