Either Seahawks’ D is about to take off or they have a big coaching problem

Nov 8, 2020, 4:42 PM
Seahawks K.J. Wright...
The Seahawks rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and total defense. (Getty)

There’s no getting around it – the Seahawks’ defense was bad in Sunday’s 44-34 loss to Buffalo, and it’s been bad all season long.

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It shouldn’t be bad for much longer, though. It can’t be, unless there’s a serious coaching problem. That’s because the defense you saw get absolutely torched by Josh Allen and the Bills is not actually the Seahawks’ defense – at least not the one you’ll see in the stretch run.

This is a season of change for Seattle’s defense. It’s been evolving since the end of the 2019 season, has never been fully healthy this season, and is still incorporating new players who haven’t had the chance to get fully acclimated to Seattle’s system due to the fact that, again, the Seahawks haven’t been fully healthy.

Yeah, the Bills put 44 points on the Seahawks on Sunday, and there was no answer to Buffalo’s offense in a truly abysmal first half. That fact is made all the more worrisome considering the reinforcements Seattle received for the game – pass rusher Carlos Dunlap made his debut after being acquired in a trade, and defensive end Rasheem Green and star safety Jamal Adams returned from injuries that had kept them out for over half of the season entering the game.

If you expected the defense to turn around against a very talented Buffalo team because of their arrivals, you shouldn’t have. Dunlap is brand new to the system. Adams had only three games in the system himself, and he and Green weren’t going to be in midseason form coming back after missing over a month of game action. These things take time, and the Seahawks haven’t had enough yet.

Even if you look at the rest of Seattle’s defense, there are plenty of players who are now at a maximum of eight games played in their current roles. And while looking around, you’re going to find that personnel is by no means a problem on that side of the ball.

At cornerback, the Seahawks have Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar. Griffin played in the Pro Bowl last year, Flowers hasn’t looked like a weak link this year, and Dunbar was Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-ranked player at the position last year. It’s not hard to think they’ll be OK when Griffin returns from his concussion and hamstring injuries, and if the knee issue that appeared to greatly impact Dunbar on Sunday heals (though Dunbar’s play in Buffalo was alarming).

There’s really no reason to think Seattle isn’t in good shape at nickel cornerback, either, where D.J. Reed and Ugo Amadi, who was out for the second straight week against Buffalo with a hamstring strain, have both played well.

At safety, it’s Adams and Quandre Diggs (plus the surprising Ryan Neal). If that doesn’t turn out to be a success by season’s end, somebody ripped a hole in the space-time continuum.

K.J. Wright has played like a Pro Bowler, Bobby Wagner is not playing around after receiving criticism a few weeks ago, and the other starting linebacker, rookie Jordyn Brooks, has shown flashes after recovering from a knee injury and should only get better as the season goes along.

And then there’s the defensive line. Dunlap immediately assumed the role as Seattle’s best pass rusher on Sunday, registering a sack, three QB hits and three tackles for loss. When Benson Mayowa returns from injury, it will only help the Seahawks’ rotation. Green has shown he can be a key player for the Seahawks when healthy. And Bryan Mone, Poona Ford and Jarran Reed haven’t been an issue at defensive tackle, or Damon “Snacks” Harrison wouldn’t still be on the practice squad a month after signing with Seattle.

Add that up and there are only two things in my mind that could be an issue for the Seahawks’ defense: continuity and scheme. I think the former is a given. The defense needs a couple of games under its belt with Dunlap in the lineup. Adams needs to truly get a chance to settle in at strong safety. And you would have to think the team is only going to get healthier considering its current state of affairs.

Which leads us to the question of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., whose name was attached to the word “fire” a whole heck of a lot Sunday on Twitter. If the Seahawks make it to December with the same problems that have plagued them through eight games, it’s going to be awfully tough to say the issue is the players general manager John Schneider has given Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks truly are set up for a Super Bowl run. Russell Wilson and the offense have never been better under Carroll. The special teams have proven to be elite. And while they’re lucky to be 6-2 considering how poorly the defense has played, can you really say Norton doesn’t have the pieces to make it work? If the defense doesn’t click soon, we’ll know why.

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Either Seahawks’ D is about to take off or they have a big coaching problem