Heaps: The key role LBs, Jamal Adams need to play to get Seahawks on track

Sep 30, 2021, 1:17 PM

Seahawks George Kittle...

49ers TE George Kittle #85 runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of the game. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

When the Seahawks face off with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, they will be looking to avoid something that the team hasn’t done since Russell Wilson took over as the starting quarterback in 2012, and that’s lose three games in a row.

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A big problem during Seattle’s losses to the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings was the defense, which has been arguably the worst in the NFL through the first three weeks of the season.

It doesn’t get much easier now with the 49ers, who always have a tough running game and also boast some talented playmakers in the passing game for QB Jimmy Garoppolo to utilize.

So what’s the toughest matchup for the Seahawks come Sunday? Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps shared his thoughts Thursday during Four-Down Territory on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.

“It’s going to be the same as it was last week. It’s going to be the linebackers and Jamal Adams,” Heaps said. “Their job is going to be to try and contain George Kittle. George Kittle is obviously one of the game’s best tight ends if not the best tight end and he can get after it (as a blocker) in the run game.”

Kittle is a tough man to bring down when he has the ball in his hands, and he’s arguably the best run-blocking tight end in football. But Heaps pointed out that Kittle is also a key part of the 49ers’ screen game, which is an area the Seahawks have struggled during the first three weeks of the season.

“They use George Kittle in the screen game quite often,” Heaps said. “(Former Seahawks linebacker) K.J. Wright famously (in 2019) blew up Kittle multiple times in the screen game alone. Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Jamal Adams or whoever is in that situation, the defensive line as well, they have to do a better job in the screen game. They have to do a good job of containing George Kittle because if you can’t, that makes everybody else’s job a lot easier, especially Jimmy Garoppolo.”

Why the struggles?

Wright being on another roster obviously hurts when it comes to the Seahawks defending screens, but why else has the defense been so lackluster in that area this year?

“It’s lack of recognition, it’s as simple as that,” Heaps said. “It’s not schematic, it’s not something they do defensively that inherently makes them susceptible to screens.”

Heaps said that the linebackers and Adams will play a big part in stopping the screen by defending Kittle, but who really is at fault for the struggles in the screen game?

“It’s the fact that your defensive line thinks that they’re going to get to the passer when the offensive line didn’t even touch them,” Heaps said. “How do you not recognize the screen in that moment? Have feel, have sense, have awareness. And with your linebackers, they have to do a better job of reading and reacting and pursuing the running back or the tight end in those situations.”

Containment responsibilities have also been a missing point for this defense, Heaps said.

“Don’t allow the offensive line to seal you up inside and now you’ve got a free running lane and you’ve got green grass up the sideline,” he said. “You have to turn it back inside to the ‘kill zone,’ to where your friendlies are, and they have not done a good job of that to this point.”

Listen to podcasts from Jake and Stacy at this link.

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Heaps: The key role LBs, Jamal Adams need to play to get Seahawks on track