Salk and Bumpus: Are Seahawks trying to build a roster like the 49ers?
It was clear in the aftermath of the Seahawks’ disappointing 7-10 finish in 2021 that changes would need to be made.
This felt like a team lacking identity and cohesion. That being said, no one anticipated a blockbuster trade of franchise quarterback Russell Wilson and a parting of ways with defensive captain Bobby Wagner, all within in a 24-hour period.
The Seahawks did not stop there. Offensive line coach Mike Solari was fired, with run game coordinator Andy Dickerson being promoted into that role. The team also parted ways with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., elevating defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to that title, while also bringing Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai in as an associate head coach/defensive assistant and Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Karl Scott as secondary coach/passing game coordinator.
The Seahawks have executed quite the overhaul this offseason, but what is the vision behind it?
Legendary Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck explained what he thinks head coach Pete Carroll is trying to establish when he joined Seattle Sports Station’s Mike Salk Show in February.
“San Francisco is interesting because it’s not like they’re getting elite quarterback play out of their quarterback,” Hasselbeck said. “They’re getting good quarterback play, but really where they’re unbelievable is what they’ve done recently on defense, their special teams are great and they run the heck out of the ball. They have Deebo Samuel who’s a playmaker, George Kittle who’s a playmaker. When I think about what Pete Carroll is always saying he wants to be as a team, he’s really describing what the San Francisco 49ers have done here as of late, in terms of sort of finding ways to dominate.”
If the 49ers are somewhat of a blueprint for the style of football Carroll wants to play, how does this Seahawks team compare? Michael Bumpus and Mike Salk discussed that on The Mike Salk Show Tuesday.
“Offensively, they have the personnel to do a lot of the things the Niners do,” Bumpus said. “When you think of the Niners, the first person I think of is Deebo Samuel. I think of Deebo and I think of George Kittle. Who is George Kittle? A guy who’s going to block the heck out of you but can still run routes, inside, outside and get yards after the catch. Noah Fant can do his best George Kittle impersonation. I don’t know how that will go, but he has those capabilities. They have a good run game and we’ve seen Rashaad Penny emerge. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 68% of his passes last year, threw 20 touchdowns, and had 12 interceptions. If Drew Lock can hover around 66% passing, 18 touchdowns, and eight or nine picks with a great defense, who knows? But it’s all about the design of the offense, getting your best players the ball and letting them do the work for you and that’s what the Niners do best.”
The numbers Bump laid out are reasonable, but would be career highs for Lock. His best completion percentage was a 64.1 his rookie season in 2019 over a five-game stretch. In 2020, he threw for 16 touchdowns over a 13-game span, so Bumpus’ 18-touchdown goal seems entirely achievable. The single-digit interception mark will be the harder feat for Lock to achieve, as he almost matched his touchdown total in 2020 with 15 interceptions.
When it comes to the rest of the offense, the Seahawks stack up pretty well.
As Bumpus mentioned, there are high hopes for tight end Noah Fant who came to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade. He is a former first-round pick that is still only 24 years old and had to deal with catching passes from six different quarterbacks during his three seasons with the Broncos.
At wide receiver, the Seahawks have one of the best duos in the league with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Their combined production last season wasn’t far off from that of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, with just 173 fewer receiving yards and eight more touchdowns scored than San Francisco’s two biggest stars.
The Seahawks also feel pretty good about their rushing attack coming off of the five-game stretch Rashaad Penny had to end the 2021 season where he broke out for 671 rushing yards. They bolstered that unit in the draft as well with the selection of arguably the best running back in the 2022 class, Kenneth Walker III, and two big, athletic tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas.
When it comes to whether the Seahawks’ defense resembles anything close to the 49ers, there are a lot more unknowns. Mike Salk isn’t convinced that the Seahawks’ changes on the defensive side of the ball are enough to rise to the level of a 49ers defense that was ranked third in the NFL in 2021 and has certified stars such as linebacker Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa.
“You could make me an argument that the drop-off from Jimmy Garoppolo last year to Drew Lock is not that significant and that you could make up for that elsewhere.” Salk said. “Where I think you’d have a hard time convincing me is that this defense is ready to take off to that level. We just haven’t seen it in so long.”
It has been a very long time since this defense has been dominant. You have to go all the way back to 2016 to find a Seahawks defense that finished in the top 10 overall. But change has to start somewhere.
The Seahawks are making a commitment to a fundamental change on defense. Even though they have stressed that they will still be a hybrid defense that features some 4-3, they will be operating out of a 3-4 base defense in 2022. Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt says the 3-4 allows them to be more balanced and work out of multiple looks to affect the quarterback as much as possible.
Beyond Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams there are a lot of new faces and guys with minimal starts under their belts stepping into larger roles this season. Who will step up and thrive in this new defense?
“That’s the question,” Bumpus said. “I mean, who are your corners? You’ve got Tre Brown, you’ve got Coby Bryant, we’ll see what happens there. You know your safeties are good, you feel like your linebackers are good. You’ve got Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, you’ve got Uchenna (Nwosu) over there from the Chargers. You don’t look at that group and say ‘OK, we’re solid.’ You still have to wait and see what’s going to happen there. On the defensive line, you’ve got some new guys coming in, you still have to see what happens there. I look at these guys and I’m saying, there’s a lot of talent there. There’s potential, I’m feeling the direction they’re going but you still have to go out there and prove it.”