Blue Friday Fodder

Blue Friday Fodder: Why Seahawks Defense Should Improve

The Seahawks are undefeated. They have scored 35 points or more in both games they played. Russell Wilson is the clear MVP leader. Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and the rest of the weapons on offense are playing wonderfully. The offensive line has been pretty good and the playcalling has been great. Even the special teams have been stellar. The one thing holding back Seahawks fans from full belief in this team’s Super Bowl chances is the play of the defense. Is this really going to be the Legion of Gloom the rest of the season, or can this group start to keep opponents from piling up 500 yards and bunches of points? There is reason to think the worst is behind us. Let me explain why.

First of all, not everything has been dreadful. Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner are elite players who have been elite performers. Yes, Adams gave up a lot in coverage last week, but that was an aberration and impacted by the loss of Quandre Diggs.

The run defense has been very good outside of the first half against Atlanta. In fact, they rank first in team run grade from ProFootballFocus (they ranked 14th last year) and 5th in run defense DVOA per FootballOutsiders. Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone have all played well against the run. They also did this against decent competition given that New England is the 3rd-ranked rush offense by DVOA and Seattle held them to 67 yards.

If you had to choose between being a good run defense and good pass defense, you’d obviously choose the latter, but the Seahawks defense from a year ago was bad at both. Being very good at one thing is promising.

The schedule looks very favorable

Fans sometimes forget just how influential strength of schedule is in how team’s perform. Going undefeated in the NFC East is no comparison to doing the same in the NFC West. As tough as the Seahawks division is, they have a very advantageous schedule the rest of the way in terms of opposing offenses.

In fact, the Seahawks defense has the second-easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the year based on opponent offensive efficiency. Check out this view from SharpFootball.

That shows all the teams in aggregate ranking. Now, look at the individual offensive efficiency of each of the remaining Seahawks opponents.

Red is harder, green is easier. Check out that stretch from week 11 to week 15. Really, after the Cowboys game, the Seahawks will play only two efficient offenses until week 16, and only three more the rest of the year.

What’s more is the pass defense has been the big problem so far in Seattle, but look at the pass offenses they will face.

And then look at how that ranks compared to the other teams in the NFL.

The caveat in all this is that teams change over time and can improve so these rankings could shift. Seattle also may be a really bad passing defense that means these offenses will benefit from facing them and improve their rankings, which will shift the strength of schedule. Finally, this is only based on two weeks of data.

All that said, there is still reason to believe the Seahawks have a favorable path in front of them to improve their defensive numbers, especially against the pass.

Jordyn Brooks

I only know what I have seen of Brooks in college, but I really liked what I saw. It’s tough to lose a guy like Bruce Irvin, but Brooks feels like the kind of player who could add needed speed and playmaking.

He is more capable in coverage than Irvin, and could add some quickness and impact as a blitzer.

Secondary growth

As much as we liked the talent the Seahawks added to the secondary, they are almost all new to playing together. Communication on the back end is important. Adams and Diggs and the corners will get better at trusting one another and knowing when to help each other out as the season goes on.

The team is also clearly blitzing more than they have in the past, and there is an adjustment needed in the secondary to cover more aggressively in those moments. It feels like the back end is not in concert with the front seven just yet. Without any preseason, it is understandable that it might take a few games to iron out those kinks.

Alton Robinson, Damontre Moore, and hopefully Darrell Taylor

Robinson is set to join the active roster this week against the Cowboys. There was a lot of hype around him during training camp, but he has been a healthy scratch the first two weeks of the year.

We don’t know what he will contribute as a pass rusher, but we know it won’t be much less than what we have been getting in that department so far.

On that front, Moore stepped in for Irvin late in the game last week and had as many pressures in a handful of snaps as Irvin did for the whole game. This guy has talent and has fought demons for a while. This is probably his last best chance to find a place in the league. Keep an eye on him.

Taylor is the biggest longshot as his recovery sounds tenuous for this season. Should he come back, that would be a potential boost to the pass rush.

Damon “Snacks” Harrison

Long rumored, and finally reported, Harrison is set to visit the Seahawks next week. This is a guy who was consistently graded as the best run defender in the NFL for five years before he lost motivation last year under Matt Patricia in Detroit.

Adding him to the mix will only help the Seahawks run defense become more dominant and could allow the other defensive linemen, linebackers, and secondary players find more one-on-one pass rush matchups or open lanes for blitzing. Harrison occupies two blockers on every snap. No current Seahawks defensive lineman does that.

Better may not mean great

None of these things mean the Seahawks defense is going to be among the best in football. That might not be a realistic goal for a team with this defensive line.

What they do mean is it is pretty darn likely this defense will not be as porous as they have been through the first two weeks, and that might be all this offense needs to win a ton of football games.