Gallant: Four keys Seahawks’ defense needs to follow to beat playoff offenses

Dec 17, 2020, 8:20 AM | Updated: 11:26 am
Seahawks Jordyn Brooks...
Rookie Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks has been a bright spot this season. (Getty)

“Hey! Look at us.”

Did you know that the Seahawks’ defense has been one of the league’s best defenses over the past three weeks?

Hawks on pace with the last two champs, but are they back on track?

Seriously. The Seattle defense that looked like it might be historically bad at (insert just about any defensive stat) has allowed just 16.2 points per game over the last five games.

The last three? Even lower – 12.3 points per game. That’s the second-best mark in the league.

“Who would have thought?”

“Not me!”

Those numbers are probably an anomaly. The Seahawks’ defense played against Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy and Sam Darnold over that three-game stretch. But let’s agree on one thing – they’ve improved.

Even better? They should be able to keep it up. Between Washington’s Alex Smith or Dwayne Haskins, the Rams’ Jared Goff, and San Francisco’s Nick Mullens, Seattle won’t play an upper-echelon quarterback for the rest of 2020.

Guys like Aaron Rodgers – and maybe Drew Brees or Tom Brady on a good day – loom large for the likely playoff-bound Seahawks, though. To beat them, Seattle’s defense needs to keep improving. Here’s how they can.

Let Jamal… jolt?

Jamal Adams seems more and more comfortable in the Seahawks’ defense by the week. And considering he’s played just nine games this season, that’s really impressive. I wonder where he’d be if he could have those four weeks lost to injury back.

He’s Seattle’s best defensive playmaker. That’s mostly because of his 8.5 sacks, the new single-season record for defensive backs. But it’s also because when he’s not blitzing, he’s often in the right place at the right time. He was part of the tackle that forced a Frank Gore fumble in the first quarter against the Jets, and he almost had a pick-six after anticipating a Sam Darnold pass. I think we’ll only see more of this.

PS: Jolt (an abrupt movement, or a shock) was the best verb starting with a ‘j’ for my future theoretical T-shirt venture, followed by jar (to shock, shake, vibrate, or quarrel), jilt (to treat someone badly), and jostle (to push and shove your way through a crowd).

Belligerently blitz

I don’t think the Seahawks can blitz enough.

Adams has blitzed 83 times this year? More. They’ve sent Bobby Wagner 85 times? More. Blitzes on 212 plays in 2020? NOT ENOUGH. That’s just fourth in the NFL. Go full Gregg Williams (except on Hail Marys and stuff).

The reason I like all the blitzing? It’s when we see Adams at his best. But it’s also when we’ve seen Wagner at his best. A full 20% of Wagner’s blitzes came against the 49ers in Week 8, resulting in a tackle for a loss, two sacks and two QB knockdowns.

Yes, there’s more nuance to blitzing than my barbaric, clearly-plays-too-much-Madden rationale. But don’t you want to put your best players in the best position to make plays? Because that’s where Bobby’s been at his best this year.

More familiarity

We’ve seen what time in Pete Carroll’s defense can do for Adams, and assuming Carlos Dunlap’s foot injury isn’t too serious, he’ll only grow more comfortable with continued playing time. He’s looked pretty comfortable from the start, with 3.5 sacks, two TFL and seven QB hits his first five games in Seattle.

We’ve also seen a steadily more confident – and scary – Jordyn Brooks. The rookie linebacker’s speed is truly impressive, as is his stopping power. He’s a punishing hitter and looks well worth that first-round pick.

I’m really curious to what Damon “Snacks” Harrison can bring the Seahawks as he gets more playing time, too. He played his highest percentage of snaps for Seattle – 23 snaps, good for 43% – Sunday against the Jets, forcing the early Gore fumble. Pete Carroll thought it was Harrison’s best game and that his play is unlocking fellow DT Poona Ford.

Step up to… the heat?

Last year’s Seahawks season ended when Seattle’s defense couldn’t get off the field on back-to-back third-and-longs in Green Bay. Unfortunately the path to a Seahawks Super Bowl will probably mean another pit stop at Lambeau Field.

Aaron Rodgers is in the midst of another MVP-caliber year, and he and Davante Adams might be the NFL’s best quarterback/wide receiver combo in 2020. And to stop them, Shaquill Griffin and/or Quinton Dunbar (hopefully both) need to prove they can be trusted at cornerback. Coincidentally, they’re both in contract years.

Griffin obviously understands the Seahawks’ defense. But does Dunbar? Sure, he’s been hobbled by a knee injury since his best game of the season, Week 2 against the Patriots. We’ve heard comments from Carroll suggesting that they’re still figuring out how to best use him and that the injury has hurt his ability to practice. I’m curious as to how he’ll play – and if he’ll play – against his old team on Sunday.

PS: How did “Step Up 2: The Streets” make $150.8 million worldwide?

Stop letting opportunities literally slip through their fingers

The Seahawks should have had three interceptions on Sunday. Two of them, one each for Jamal Adams and Ugo Amadi, could have been pick-sixes. Unfortunately, they dropped all three.

You aren’t gifted many chances in a league like the NFL. And against real teams – sorry Jets – the Seahawks have to cash in. They’re in a six-way tie for 13th in the league with 18 takeaways. That’s not terrible. But when you have the NFL’s worst passing defense (incredibly, they’ve still allowed more passing yards than the Jets), it isn’t enough.

I’m not trying to tell you that the Seahawks’ defense could be one of the NFL’s best. But I am telling you that they’re improving. And the bullet points above are out of the question.

Follow Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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Gallant: Four keys Seahawks’ defense needs to follow to beat playoff offenses