Bobby Wagner shares view on why Seahawks’ defense has struggled

Apr 7, 2022, 11:48 AM
Seahawks Bobby Wagner...
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner pauses during a Dec. 12, 2021 game against Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)
(AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)

Bobby Wagner has been the one constant presence in the Seahawks’ defense for the past 10 seasons, but that will all change in 2022.

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Following Seattle’s release last month of the six-time All-Pro linebacker, the 31-year-old Wagner has joined the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, assuring he will meet the Seahawks twice as a member of an NFC West rival going forward.

Seattle’s defense had its ups and downs during the final years of Wagner’s tenure with the team, and it was something he spoke about at length when he joined Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show for a 30-minute interview that aired Wednesday. Among the things Wagner addressed was his view of what held the defense back, changes to the scheme, and his response to criticism of his own play. Here’s a look at what he had to say.

Slow starts

It’s no secret to anybody who watched the Seahawks closely the last few years that the defense took time to get going during the season, which was something that prevented Seattle from finishing high enough in the NFC to earn a playoff bye – or in the case of 2021, even make the playoffs at all.

“I felt like we always got off to a slow start,” Wagner said. “We would give up a ridiculous amount of yards, and even like last year, last year was crazy because if you look at our yardage, we were (towards the) bottom if not the bottom of the list. But if you looked at our situational football, we were like top five – third down, red zone, things of that nature. And so we just struggled to kind of put it all together.”

One possible reason for the slow starts the past two seasons is how little the Seahawks were able to work together in the offseason due to the pandemic. Wagner illustrated that by bringing up linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who was drafted by Seattle in the first round in 2020.

“We definitely had to communicate better. We definitely had to just execute the scheme and sometimes the trust wasn’t always there,” he said. “And you think about COVID, you think of all these different things where normally you get to be around one another… I was talking to Jordyn a while ago and this might be his first real offseason where you have OTAs and everything like that. Up until this point, he’s never had a real offseason. Little things like that do matter, do mean something.”

A key issue for Seattle last season was getting stops – and then the offense staying in possession longer than a few plays after the defense did get a stop. Wagner said it was something he even looked up as the year was going.

“I was looking at it at some point in the season, I believe myself, (safety Quandre) Diggs, and (safety) Jamal (Adams) had the most plays in in the league by a longshot. I think we had like 200 more plays than the next closest person, and that just shows we had trouble getting off the field. I can’t really pinpoint on what exactly was the reason to that but I do feel like at some point of each of those seasons we were able to figure it out, but sometimes that was just too late.”

Wagner’s own play

Has Wagner lost a step? He doesn’t think so, and while there have been critiques about him not seeming to be as active on the field in recent years, he said his numbers back him up.

“I feel like the production from a statistical standpoint has been there,” he said. “The tackles are still around the same. Sacks are still around the same even though I think last year I blitzed the least.”

While Wagner made a career-high 170 tackles last season, he had just one sack and appeared to be less of a factor around and behind the line of scrimmage. He pointed to how Seattle used the defensive line for him as a reason.

“I just think some of the fronts didn’t necessarily allow me to come downhill the way that I was able to come downhill earlier my career,” he said. “Earlier in my career we were more an under front… The front that we moved to the later part of my career, it was the stick front and it was not necessarily (allowing me to) come downhill, it was read behind the blockers. Teams were doing a good job of releasing that guard because there was nobody touching the guard.”

Potential bad news for Seahawks fans is that Wagner has heard the criticism and is motivated to prove he can still be a standout player with his new team.

“I understand the criticism, I hear the criticism, I have no problem with embracing it,” he said, “and I look forward to proving a lot of doubters wrong because I still feel like I’m one of the best linebackers in this league and I plan on proving that this year.”

For more from Wagner’s conversation with Salk, click here. And to listen to the full interview, click play below.

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