Heaps: Who Seahawks can add to make defense more aggressive in 2022

Jan 22, 2022, 1:19 PM

Seahawks Chandler Jones...

Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after hitting Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

With the Seahawks searching for a new defensive coordinator after Ken Norton Jr. was let go after four seasons in the role, there’s some thought that there’s going to be a change in mentality on that side of the ball.

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The Seahawks were solid in scoring defense in four years under Norton, ranking 11th, 22nd, 15th and 12th in his four seasons running the defense. But Seattle struggled when it came to sacks, yards allowed – especially in the passing game – and forcing turnovers.

The Seahawks utilized what was described as a “bend but don’t break” defense, that allowed a lot of yards but solidified in the red zone and forced a lot of field goal tries.

But with the team changing coordinators this offseason, many, including former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps, believe the Seahawks will be trying to be more aggressive on that side of the ball starting in 2022.

If that’s the case, what kind of players do they need? And who are some potential additions the Seahawks could make this offseason? Heaps shared his thoughts during Wednesday’s edition of Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle.

“In terms of … the type of player that you need to be able to make yourself more aggressive, you need better pass rush,” Heaps said. “You need to be able to have guys that can fly off the edge that can be in that attack mode that that really generate the pressure on the quarterback.”

The Seahawks were among the worst teams in the NFL in sacking the quarterback in 2019, and they started very slow in that department in 2020. But a late-season surge thanks largely to Jamal Adams and Carlos Dunlap led Seattle to finishing seventh in the NFL in sacks in 2020.

But pass rush struggles were too common again in 2021 as Seattle finished tied for 22nd in sacks.

So if the Seahawks are going to improve at pass rush, who could they add?

“I think Chandler Jones would be a slam dunk for the Seattle Seahawks,” Heaps said. “He would be a great addition to what they want to do going into 2022.”

Jones, 31, is an unrestricted free agent who started his NFL career in 2012 with the New England Patriots and has been with the Arizona Cardinals since 2016, where he’s played the Seahawks twice a year. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Jones is among the game’s top edge rushers, with 107.5 sacks in 137 career games. He had 10.5 in 2021 after playing just five games in 2020 due to a torn bicep. That was after leading the NFL in sacks with 19 in 2019.

Adding Jones would not just be a plus for the Seahawks in terms of improving the pass rush, but because he has 16.5 sacks in 11 games against the Seahawks, which is 7.5 more sacks than he has against any other team.

Jones isn’t the only big-name defensive lineman Heaps thinks the Seahawks should target.

“Akiem Hicks is another name that I think really stands out to me,” Heaps said.

Hicks, 32, is also set to hit unrestricted free agency. He started his career in New Orleans with the Saints, had a brief stop in New England but has been with the Chicago Bears since 2016, where he’s emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman.

Hicks is listed as a defensive end, but he’s 6 foot 4 and 335 pounds and can also play inside as a defensive tackle. In his career, Hicks has 40.5 sacks and 111 QB hits in 138 games and made the Pro Bowl in 2018.

“He’s someone that’s very familiar with what direction that Pete Carroll, I think, wants to go in defensively and has worked with Clint Hurtt before in the past,” Heaps said.

Hurtt is the Seahawks’ current defensive line coach and associate head coach, and he’s reportedly under consideration to be the team’s defensive coordinator in 2022. Hurtt was with the Bears from 2014-16, and Hicks’ first year in Chicago was Hurtt’s final year before he came to Seattle.

“I believe he would be in a tremendous addition to this defensive line,” Heaps said.

The other position Heaps thinks the Seahawks could add to is cornerback.

“You talk about corner play, you talk about having somebody that could shut down one side of the field, well, you had that with D.J. Reed in terms of playing very, very good football,” Heaps said. “But if you could add another sure thing on the outside, I think that would really, really help your group and give Pete Carroll more confidence in playing in that attack mindset, knowing that you’re going to put your corners in one-on-one situations often and have guys that can hold up and can manage that situation and not get beat and not give up big plays on a consistent basis.”

Reed is a pending unrestricted free agent and is slated to be one of the better defensive backs on the open market.

Listen to the second hour of Wednesday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

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Heaps: Who Seahawks can add to make defense more aggressive in 2022