Matt Hasselbeck Show: Does Seahawks’ defense need to evolve?

Jan 19, 2022, 5:57 PM

Seahawks Bobby Wagner Sidney Jones...

Bears RB David Montgomery is tackled by Seahawks CB Sidney Jones and LB Bobby Wagner in December. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks were unlikely to move forward after their 7-10 season without any significant changes, and that rang true when they relieved defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of his duties Tuesday.

How does Seahawks’ DC change impact Bobby Wagner’s future?

That means Seattle now has a defense to address, but the question is whether head coach Pete Carroll will be looking for a DC with a new approach or somebody who can simply get more out of his long established system.

The answer is clear to Matt Hasselbeck.

Asked Wednesday by Mike Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle’s weekly Matt Hasselbeck Show if the Seahawks need to evolve their defense or just have someone communicate it differently, the former star Seahawks quarterback said it should simply be a matter of tightening things up.

“I think it needs to be executed better,” he said. “We talked all year about (if) you want to fix a lot of your problems, just get a great pass rush. And I think back to the Legion of Boom, yeah, they were playing great, but part of that defense was a great pass rush, as well. And then it gets contagious that way. A consistent pass rush, a four-man rush, even a three-man rush, that’s a real factor.”

It’s easy to see Hasselbeck’s point considering Seattle started slow in general on defense in 2021, and it especially struggled in the sacks department for much of the year until making progress later in the season thanks in part to Carlos Dunlap registering eight of his team-leading 8.5 sacks in the Seahawks’ final six games.

Something else that was an issue was that the Seahawks’ 18 takeaways in 2021 was the lowest single season total in franchise history, per Field Gulls. Knowing that and how much importance Carroll puts on winning the turnover battle, it’s no surprise to Hasselbeck, who played for Carroll in 2010, that a change was made.

“(That stat) would just be nails on a chalkboard to Pete Carroll,” he said.

Added Salk: “It’s antithetical to what Pete wants to do.”

Another observation Hasselbeck made had to do with how the Seahawks lined up their defensive backs.

“The other thing I’ve mentioned kind of all year… line up and play in the secondary and have your assignment correct. Sometimes disguising can get you in a little bit of trouble,” he said. “If I go back and watch the big plays against the Seahawks, I feel like (there is) a little bit of over-disguise. … I think execution and just tighten the screws a little bit. Guys are in position to make plays and just weren’t making plays when they needed.”

After hearing Hasselbeck’s comments, Salk said they were in line with what the Seahawks would get if they hired a couple of names they’ve been reported to have interest in taking over as defensive coordinator.

“That sounds like a pretty good argument in favor of a name like Clint Hurtt, who’s already on the on the staff, or even Ed Donatell, both of whom are really known for their communication and maybe have a relationship with Pete and don’t need to come in and make a tremendous amount of changes,” Salk said. “It sounds a little bit more like keep the status quo but do it better.”

Hurtt is the current Seahawks defensive line coach, while Donatell, who is Denver’s defensive coordinator, worked alongside Carroll at Pacific University in the early 1980s and was New York Jets defensive backs coach when Carroll was the DC from 1990 to 1993 and head coach in 1994. Donatell’s son Tom was also Carroll’s defensive quality control coach with the Seahawks from 2017-20.

Hasselbeck said that whoever becomes Seattle’s next DC should be someone who can get the most out of the talent the Seahawks have already assembled on that side of the ball.

“There’s just something awesome for a player to be coached hard and to really feel like, looking from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, ‘Wow, it wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun, but I got so much better as a player this year and we got so much better as a unit this year.’ And so whoever can take this unit to that level where guys are having the best years of their career, young players are now not playing like young players (but) they’re playing like savvy vets, that’s kind of what you’re looking for.”

You can hear this week’s full Matt Hasselbeck Show, which airs from 9-10 a.m. every Wednesday on 710 ESPN Seattle, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

More on Seahawks’ DC change

Jake Heaps: Hawks should look to bring former DC Gus Bradley back
Brock Huard: What’s next for Seahawks as they move on from Norton
Jake & Stacy: What parting ways with DC Ken Norton Jr. says about Seahawks

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