Rost: Pressure mounting for Seahawks’ defense to show improvement
Sep 26, 2022, 12:04 AM
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
“There was a lot of good things that happened in this game.”
That’s what Pete Carroll told reporters following the Seahawks’ 27-23 loss to the previously winless Atlanta Falcons Sunday, a Week 3 matchup that felt far from good for fans leaving Lumen Field.
But he’s not wrong. At least not when it comes to offense.
There were always going to be questions for that unit in 2022. Gone were two impact players — running back Chris Carson and left tackle Duane Brown — as well as the biggest piece for this team, quarterback Russell Wilson. The group left behind included veteran backup quarterback Geno Smith, two rookie tackles, and a talented though oft-injured starting running back. And outside of the first half against Denver in Week 1, there were issues: the offense had gone six consecutive quarters without finding the end zone. The Seahawks were last in the league in rushing attempts, thanks in large part to the fact they they’d run the fewest plays in the league. Only Chicago, a team in full rebuild, looked less electric.
So yes, Sunday was a marked improvement. Seattle’s offense had season-highs in total yards (420), total plays (69), third down conversion rate (53%), and total first downs (23). The Seahawks won time of possession and the turnover battle. That isn’t to say the offense was mistake-free; in fact, Smith’s fourth down interception in the final moments was one of the costliest. You’d like to see running backs Rashaad Penny and Ken Walker get more touches. And the offense strung together just one field goal drive in the second half. But still, there was improvement.
“I thought you saw us get better today,” Carroll continued, “but it wasn’t good enough for winning. That’s what really counts.”
They did. But if that improvement doesn’t stretch to the defense, there won’t be much winning at all.
Seattle’s defense had its own warts entering the season. The Seahawks had given up the second-most passing yards in each of the previous two seasons and had looked far from a top five unit for some time — a mark not bad in itself, but notable for a team that once trotted out the league’s best scoring defense for four years straight.
At least they were solid against the run. Until this year.
Seattle is giving up 157 rushing yards per game through three weeks (5.0 yards per carry), which is among the worst in the league and a number only made better by Denver’s hesitancy to hand the ball of to Javonte Williams in Week 1. The 49ers picked up 189 yards on 45 carries last week against Seattle, while the Falcons rushed for 179 on 31 attempts Sunday. The Seahawks also gave up seven plays of 20 or more yards, including a 40-yard run from Cordarelle Patterson, and a 26-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus to convert third-and-19. The Falcons averaged 7.1 yards per play and converted on three of four trips into the red zone.
“We have to fit things up more accurately, more consistently,” Carroll said when asked about the opponent’s success running outside the tackles. “We just have to clean up the way it’s happening there… It looks like it’s too easy for them.”
All of this isn’t surprising when you’ve got rookie cornerbacks or a new defensive coordinator, which Seattle does. But it’s certainly concerning given the investments made and the identity this team seeks to embody.
Those investments include two Pro Bowl safeties, one of which Seattle surrendered two first-round picks for (and is out for the season) in Jamal Adams. The team made Adams the highest-paid safety at the time when it signed Adams to an extension last year, and earlier this summer the Seahawks signed fellow safety Quandre Diggs to a three-year, $40 million deal. They brought in ex-Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu on a two-year, $20 million deal, their richest of free agency. They’ve used first-round picks on linebacker Jordyn Brooks and defensive lineman L.J. Collier (currently on the injured reserve), a second-round pick on outside linebacker Darrell Taylor, and a third-round pick on linebacker Cody Barton.
Adams and Collier aren’t playing. There’s a pair of rookies at outside and nickel corner. But the talent, resources, and experience are there to be better. And with Carroll’s focus on getting this team back to form, so too is the pressure.