Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did not hesitate Monday in affirming the notion that this year’s defense could be as effective at blitzing as any he’s had in Seattle. The primary reasons, Carroll told “Brock and Salk,” are that linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have come into their own in that area of their game, as has Kris Richard as a defensive coordinator. But that’s just part of it.
“There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt,” Carroll said. “It’s kind of a coming of age of Bobby and K.J. as blitzers. I think it’s a coming of age, really, of Kris, too. He likes being aggressive. He’s looking for his time. He’s doing a great job mixing our calls. Our guys are executing really well. There’s some really neat, small things that happen in there. Cassius (Marsh) had a great pickup on a blitz that he had to pick up on the back and he’s got a wheel route going up the sidelines. Covered him perfectly, something we didn’t do real well earlier in the year.”
Carroll was referring to a mistake Marsh made in the opener against Miami when he failed to pick up Arian Foster out of the backfield, allowing him to get open for a 50-yard reception. The other play Carroll mentioned was in the second quarter on Sunday, when Seattle brought Wagner and Wright on blitzes, leaving Marsh to cover a running back out of the backfield, which he did. That play resulted in an incompletion that forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal.
Carroll’s point: the success of a blitz is dependent on more than just the players doing the blitzing.
“And those are all of the things that contribute to it, and then we also have very aggressive coverage guys to match up with it,” Carroll said. “So it’s a really nice positive. We’re continuing to grow, and you can see the factor.”
You certainly could on Sunday as the Seahawks went after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with regularity. Brock Huard passed along the numbers from ESPN Stats & Information via Mike Sando. Against Seattle’s standard four-man rush, Ryan completed 20 of 26 attempts (76.9 percent) for 268 yards (10.3 average), three touchdowns and an interception. When Seattle brought five or more rushers, Ryan was significantly less effective: 7 of 16 (43.8 percent) for 67 yards (4.2 average).
The Seahawks have not been heavy blitzers under Carroll and whatever coordinator has been in charge of his defense. Pro Football Focus noted that in 2013 and 2014, for instance, they ranked 28th and 24th, respectively, in blitz rate while sending an extra rusher on less than a quarter of the opposing offenses’ dropbacks. Wagner said he’s wanted to blitz more ever since his rookie season in 2o12.
“This year, I told them like, ‘If you send me, I will get pressure,’” he said following Sunday’s game. “They haven’t been sacks yet, but I’ve been getting pressure like I said.”
Wagner has one sack this season. By my count, Seattle sent him six times on Atlanta dropbacks Sunday, not counting a running play on which he dropped Devonta Freeman for a 2-yard loss. That included consecutive plays in the second quarter, when he hit Ryan each time.
“He’s a really good blitzer,” Carroll said Sunday. “He’s such a good natural athlete, he’s so quick and so flexible and he can slip and slide. He had a great blitz today on a pass that they completed. He came back later and he got the QB again. He’s a big factor. We’ve grown with him. He’s learned timing and feel and how to adjust his pressure so he can take advantage of the way the protection is hitting. He’s a real vet, and he’s a terrific blitzer right now.”
Huard discussed Seattle’s blitzing in “Blue 42” Tuesday. That segment is embedded at the top of the post and can also be found here.