Brock and Salk: Is Seahawks’ current defensive formula sustainable?
Another week, another Seahawks win. And like seemingly every game has been since the start of the 2019 season, Week 5’s win over the Minnesota Vikings was anything but easy.
The offense struggled at times but eventually found a rhythm and scored on the final possession. The defense, meanwhile, continued to struggle, this time against the run, which had been the strength of the team through the first four weeks of the season. But a fumble, an interception and a fourth-down stop were enough to get the win despite the myriad of problems that unit had all night.
The defensive struggles have been on display all year, as Seattle has allowed over 400 passing yards twice and has struggled mightily on third downs. But a pair of key fourth-down stops and some takeaways have the Seahawks sitting at 5-0 despite the defense not only allowing the most yards per game, but also being on pace to allow the most yards in a single season in NFL history.
Is what that group is doing sustainable for the Seahawks’ 11 remaining games as well as a likely playoff run? And can that unit improve the rest of the way? Brock Huard and Mike Salk discussed that in the latest Brock and Salk Podcast for 710 ESPN Seattle.
First, Salk wanted to give credit where credit is due as far as the defense is concerned.
“Say what you want about this defense and all of the yards and points they’ve given up, they’ve made enormous plays in every game,” he said. “As big as (quarterback Russell Wilson) was in the final drive, there’s no way he wins this game if not for the defense coming up with the three biggest plays of the game other than maybe the (fourth-down conversions on offense).”
Seattle now has two huge fourth-down defensive stops that directly resulted in wins while that group struggled the rest of those games. Additionally, the Seahawks are tied for second in takeaways through Week 5 with 10.
“So really when I ask about sustainability, the question is can you keep making enormous plays in every game, getting the turnovers like this, without playing well on any other play in the game,” he said.
“That seems kind of counter intuitive, right? It seems hard to imagine,” Huard responded.
One area you could point to for proving why the Seahawks’ defense has struggled, at least the last few weeks, is injuries. Seattle should be healthier when it returns to action in Week 7 in Arizona.
“The good news is (cornerback) Quinton Dunbar should get better as the season goes on. The good news is (safety) Jamal Adams, I think they know what he is and what he isn’t and they’ve won a couple games without him and will have divisional foes where he’s going to have to be at his very best,” Huard said.
As far as takeaways go, Huard doesn’t see this defense averaging two a game.
“When the 2013 defense, one of the most dominant defenses in the history of this league, created 39 takeaways, that felt sustainable,” he said. “When you sack the quarterback 50 times, when you shut people down, when you get leads and they’ve got to throw and throw into windows and zone defense and that four0man rush is getting home and effecting the quarterback, 39 takeaways felt reasonable.”
Obviously, this group isn’t anywhere close to the historic defense of 2013.
“This crew creating the takeaways they have through five games does not feel as sustainable against better competition because the other facets of your defense and those puzzle pieces that help complete that picture of dominance, they’re not there,” Huard said.
“I think there will be some opportunities for some, but I can never count on takeaways,” Huard continued. “We saw this last year through the first four or five games, they took the ball away defensively and then it went away. And against better competition, against the Rams, against the Cardinals, in the NFC against better competition, I think it’s going to be a bit challenging. ”
Salk is expecting the defense to get better, even if the amount of turnovers it creates goes down like Huard expects.
“Hopefully it’s balanced by the fact that they get better,” Salk said. “There is hope that this defense will get better. We’re going to see (defensive tackle Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison next game) … Jamal Adams should be back, Dunbar should be healthier … you’re going to get (rookie linebacker) Jordyn Brooks back. There’s some folks who should be returning. Is it enough, though, for them to get better? Yeah, they should get better. Just getting Jamal Adams out there should at least make them better.”
Listen to the entire Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.