K.J. Wright: The issue in Seahawks’ defensive scheme, and how to fix it

Sep 28, 2022, 3:07 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm
Seahawks Al Woods...
Seahawks DT Al Woods tackles Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Three games into the Seahawks’ season, their defense is still trying to find its footing.

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Under first-year defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt, Seattle is using a new 3-4 defensive front after years of employing a 4-3, and the lack of a fourth defensive lineman is showing up in a negative way. The Seahawks are tied for second-to-last in rushing yards allowed in the NFL at 471 total, and the passing defense isn’t doing much better with 721 yards allowed through the air (19th in the NFL) on just 86 pass attempts faced (only four teams have faced less).

Former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright shared his thoughts on the early struggles for the new scheme, and he pointed to some issues with the personnel Seattle is currently using.

“When you look at (defensive tackle) Al Woods, he is in my opinion the only defensive lineman that fits this scheme,” he said Wednesday on Seattle Sports’ weekly K.J. Wright Show. “(Defensive ends) Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson, they are very good at penetration, getting up field, getting in the backfield. If you go into a game saying, ‘Hey guys, I need you guys to go lateral, take up two blocks, mirror the offensive lineman,’ in my opinion that does not fit their skill set. It does not fit what they are good at. And so, coach, if your guys don’t fit the scheme, then run what the guys are good at.”

Wright said some flexibility within the scheme would help alleviate the problem.

“I see what I have upfront, I know what they’re good at, you can keep the scheme but jiggy rig it a little bit to what the fellas are really good at,” he said, speaking from the perspective of a coach. “OK, if you see that we’re getting gashed, let me get this safety in the box way more to help stop the run. You gotta find a way to stop this stuff early because if you do not, it will continue to be 100-plus (rushing yards allowed) each and every week.”

Something else that would help is the return of veteran defensive lineman Shelby Harris, one of the players to come to the Seahawks from Denver in the Russell Wilson trade. Harris dealt with minor injuries coming out of Week 1 and was also away from the team for last Sunday’s loss to the Falcons while attending to a personal matter.

“He’s somebody that’s big, he’s somebody that’s strong, someone that’s experienced in this league, so he has to be that guy to keep (opposing offensive linemen) off my linebackers,” Wright said. “I’m watching my LBs and I’m like, they can’t even flow and make plays because somebody’s always in their face. And so you keep (edge rusher) Uchenna (Nwosu) on the strong side; (edge rusher) Darrell Taylor, let’s get it, you put him on the other side. And so you got to find a way to keep these linebackers free to make plays, because you see sometimes (linebacker) Jordyn Brooks, he’s like, ‘To (heck) with this, I’m just going to go and shoot my gun.’ You can see that the guys are getting frustrated with just getting mauled and blocked by these offensive linemen so they’re taking their chances, but it’s not quite paying out.”

You can listen to the full K.J. Wright Show, which airs live from 8-9 a.m. each Wednesday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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K.J. Wright: The issue in Seahawks’ defensive scheme, and how to fix it