Clint Hurtt explains why Seahawks changing to 3-4, impact on secondary

May 19, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: May 20, 2022, 11:04 am
Seahawks Clint Hurtt...
Seahawks assistant coach Clint Hurtt watches from the sidelines during a game against Houston. (John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Seahawks’ defense will have some familiar faces on the field this season, but the overall look of the defense should be different.

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Not only do the Seahawks have a new defensive coordinator in Clint Hurtt, who was Seattle’s defensive line coach the last four seasons, but they will be transitioning to a 3-4 defense with Hurtt running the show.

Hurtt joined The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Wednesday to break down why the Seahawks are going that route, and what that means for the secondary in particular.

Hurtt said that he was “raised” in 4-3 schemes (four defensive linemen, three linebackers) in high school and college, but when he joined the coaching ranks, he realized how useful 3-4 defenses (three defensive linemen, four linebackers) are, especially in combating modern NFL offenses.

“What I started to realize in the transition of how football was changing with all the spread offenses and the zone reads and RPO (run-pass option) concepts… you want to have the ability to be balanced,” he said. “And what happens is a lot of times offenses can put you in certain formations and sets so they can see coverage-wise what you’re doing. And obviously in today’s game, everything is all about how you affect the quarterback, not only by pressing and hidden in sacking him, but also screwing with his reads pre-snap and post-snap.”

So what exactly does a 3-4 defense allow you to do?

“You can be balanced and be able to play out of a 2-high (safeties) shell and be able to cover down with your edge guys and whatnot when necessary,” he said. “So anything that you can do to make the quarterback have to work.”

Hurtt said roughly half of the league plays 3-4 defenses these days, adding it isn’t a surprise given what offenses and quarterbacks are doing.

“It’s something that you’ve got to have. And here’s the thing, it’s not that if you go 3-4 that you just don’t have any 4-3 elements to your defense. That’s not true,” Hurtt said. “A lot of the fronts and things like that – the multiplicity that you can give – you can still play over and under structures that you usually have in 4-3 defenses … So the multiplicity of 3-4 defenses is why I’ve become a big fan because I can get to whatever I need to with that structure and principle, and the principles with the coverage, as well.”

What the change means for the Seahawks’ secondary

A change to a 3-4 defense obviously impacts the defensive line and linebackers, but what about for the Seahawks’ secondary?

“Some of the principles are different,” Hurtt said. “Here, our Cover-3  stuff has been a lot of vision and break and spot drop.”

What exactly does that mean?

“Vision and break, really what that means is you have two different principles,” Hurtt said. “When you play zone coverage in this league, some teams are spot drops, where you really focused on hitting landmarks and once you get to your depth, you’ve got your vision on the quarterback, and you’re melting and moving off the eyes of the quarterback and reading the shoulders and whatnot for where he’s going with the football, and then you’ve got to break and react on the ball. And the other side you can play is more of a zone matchup principle where you’re really playing bodies and pattern matching more so than playing in an area. So are you playing a man or are you playing the area? There’s a difference.

“We’ll have some of those principles in certain calls that (we’ll keep), but the big thing right now is obviously the ability to pattern match and get to be able to react to the stems of receivers and whatnot and match up with people,” Hurtt added. “No. 1, it helps the guys on the back end where you can play stickier and challenge routes more and be in position to get your hands on the football a lot more. Two is it also helps affect the pass rush, because now we can make that quarterback choke and kind of hold on another split second. That’s usually what you need for the rush in order to be able to get home. So that’s the big part right now that our guys are going through and learning and doing really well with.”

Listen to the full interview at this link or in the player below.

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