K.J. Wright says Seahawks found a clear turning point on defense
The Seahawks have struggled mightily on defense since the start of the 2019 season, but after holding an explosive Arizona Cardinals offense to 21 points and just over 300 yards in a Week 11 win, it looks like things are trending up as Seattle enters the last six weeks of 2020.
Someone who has been with the Seahawks through the historic highs of the Legion of Boom to the immense struggles of 2019 and 2020 is linebacker K.J. Wright, who was drafted by Seattle in 2011, making him the team’s longest-tenured player.
Wright joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob on Monday and talked about the defense and what changed in the Week 11 win over the Cardinals.
As reported, the Seahawks’ defense had an accountability meeting that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and head coach Pete Carroll led the day before Seattle’s win over Arizona. Wright, like Carroll, said that meeting was a clear turning point for the struggling defense.
“Watching us the last few games,” Wright said, “it was all about guys being accountable for just doing your job, being on your assignment, and we just had a meeting to where we explained what our job was on certain defenses and Pete called on certain guys and said ‘What have you got?’ and you just had to explain what your job and what your role is. It was a meeting that I’ve never been a part of and it was just pretty special to hear guys talk that you don’t (often hear from and hear) what their job is, what they’ve been coached to do, what they planned to do and execute on Thursday.
“It was a beautiful thing, man. When guys just know what they’ve got and guys just do that at a high level, you see the results and we saw that on Thursday.”
The results were great with the Seahawks holding the NFL’s top rushing attack to under 60 yards on the ground and limiting the explosive plays that quarterback Kyler Murray and Cardinals’ passing game made. After allowing the Buffalo Bills to march down the field in Week 9 and the Los Angeles Rams to dominate in the first half, Wright said it’s clear the last six quarters that Seattle’s defense has played is more in line with how the team wants to play.
“It’s the same guys, the same crew, and as you saw in Buffalo, that was just horrible. It was horrible ball,” he said. “… Then we improved against the Rams, but (there were still things) we could have improved on, we still had a loss, but the Arizona game, we were just like, ‘Man, enough is enough.'”
Wright has only missed the playoffs twice in his 10-year career, and the Seahawks have never dropped three games in a row in that entire stretch. He said the team was unwilling to let that happen last week.
“We knew this game was a must win so it had to fall on the defense,” Wright said. “The defense, we’ve got to do our job because the offense has been phenomenal all year, so let’s just communicate, communicate, communicate.”
Wright had one play that showed just how key communication is – an open-field tackle of Murray on third down, which Wyman and Bob host Dave Wyman, a former NFL linebacker, highlighted in his weekly Football 101 video breakdown.
See that video breakdown here: How K.J. Wright outplayed Kyler Murray
Wyman told Wright that after seeing that play, he never wants to hear someone say the veteran linebacker has lost a step, then asked Wright to explain what happened on that key stop.
“That play was fun. It was a short-yardage play on third-and-1 and they were going (with a no-huddle offense), so I knew they were going to run the ball,” he said. “So we got in our perfect defense – I’m so glad Norton called this defense – he called our perfect defense against it.”
Wright said he was lined up close to the line of scrimmage and knew what was about to happen, and that one of the Seahawks’ newest additions made it clear throughout the week what needed to be done.
“I was talking to Carlos Dunlap all week and Dunlap was like, ‘Hey, when you get in this position, this is what we’ve got to do against Kyler Murray,’ and I was like ‘You’re 100% right,'” Wright recalled. “It just comes down to film study and I knew what kind of move he was going to make, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to take my shot, I’m about to go at this angle’ and film study shows exactly what he’s always done. It was a super fun play to make the open-field tackle against a guy like that.”
Wright also agreed with Wyman’s perception of the play and Wright’s ability overall.
“It was definitely impressive and I have not lost a step. I appreciate that, Dave,” he said.
Wright said that the Seahawks’ defense communicated well in a Week 8 win over the San Francisco 49ers and that it was able to do that again in Week 11 against Arizona. Now it’s a matter of keeping that up for the final six weeks.
“It’s got to just build next to the Eagles and then it’s got to keep building because this stretch is going to be crucial,” he said. “We’ve got six games left and it’s playoff time, it’s going to go by extremely fast, so we’ve got to keep building off this win we just got.”
And while Wright doesn’t want to look too far ahead, he is on the last year of his contract. He’s played his entire 10-year career with the Seahawks and has accomplished one milestone he set for himself by playing in 2020.
“My goal was always to get to 10 years. I got to 10 years and it’s been really good, really good,” he said.
As far as what 2021 and beyond entails, Wright didn’t divulge too much.
“It’s a contact year, I’m going to be a free agent and we’ll just see what’s at stake for me,” he said.
Wright also discussed what it’s like for new players to come to Seattle, playing without fans and more. Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.