Friday, January 27 2023

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

While the quarterback competition between incumbent Geno Smith and newcomer Drew Lock has taken center stage for the Seattle Seahawks, poor play on the other side of the football has been a glaring issue for the team.

The Seahawks defense used to boast the Legion of Boom. The current iteration is more like the Legion of Gloom.

Through two preseason games, Seattle’s transition to a hybrid, 3-4 defense has not been pretty. The Seahawks have allowed 29.5 points per contest, No. 30 in the NFL. They’re giving up a league-worst 5.03 rushing yards per attempt, and they have just one takeaway.

Those are not inspiring numbers with former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos coming to Lumen Field for the season opener on Sept. 12. 

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Winning in the preseason was important for Pete Carroll’s Seahawks during the early part of his tenure with the franchise, as he attempted to change the culture. The Seahawks are 26-19 all time in exhibition play under Carroll, going 4-0 in 2012, 2013 and 2017. 

Over the past five seasons, however, Seattle has won just four exhibition games. That includes the COVID-19 year when teams didn’t play preseason games, but still. 

Missed tackles have been a major issue this year. According to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks have 29 missed tackles in the team’s first two preseason games. 

Carroll said tackling was a point of emphasis during this week leading up to Friday’s final preseason game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.

“We had a really good week of fundamentals,” Carroll said. “Every day we had an emphasis on it again just to get our fundamentals right. Guys were getting on the big crash pad, and we did all kinds of things to help elevate.”

Yes, it’s preseason and five key defensive starters have yet to take the field for Seattle, including safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, linebacker Jordyn Brooks and cornerbacks Sidney Jones IV and Artie Burns. But the Seahawks struggled on defense last year, which was one reason why Carroll shook up his staff, moving on from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and elevating line coach Clint Hurtt. 

When Carroll put together one of the best defenses in the NFL in his early days with the organization, there was little drop-off from starters to reserves. All the Seahawks’ defenders pursued the football and played with an aggressive mindset.

Hurtt is working to re-create that type of mentality for this new group. The new DC is implementing an alignment that longtime NFL defensive guru Vic Fangio made popular because it’s designed to reduce explosive plays. Learning a new scheme could be one of the reasons why Seattle appears slow in getting to the football.

But in the end, the players have to tackle.

“It’s taking the next step, lowering our pad level, wrapping up when we tackle, continuing to drive your feet on tackles,” Hurtt told reporters this week. “Those types of things are the ones that you have to continue to work your way through. 

“If you want to be a great defense, then you have to tackle. It will stay a sticking point for us, and we will continue to work on through the course of the year, but it’s normal training camp and preseason growing pains.”

Brooks believes the problem will be solved once the starters are in the lineup regularly. The inside linebacker led the Seahawks with 184 tackles last season, and this year he takes over as the defensive play-caller with Bobby Wagner now a Los Angeles Ram.

“It’s been some ups and downs,” Brooks told reporters when asked how the defense has played. “That’s what the preseason is for. Obviously, tackling hasn’t been great for us. It was a big jump from game one to game two as far as missed tackles, so that’s an improvement there. We just want to continue emphasizing tackling well and executing the calls.

“It’s hard because you have to tackle to get good at tackling. That’s what these preseason games are for. That’s where you’re really going to get the tackling practice from.”

If that’s the case, Brooks and his teammates have only one more chance to practice before Wilson brings his Broncos to town.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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Source: FOX Sports


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