Seahawks HC Pete Carroll talks defensive scheme, pass rushers, more

May 12, 2023, 9:28 AM

Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll Bobby Wagner...

Head coach Pete Carroll and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks react on the sideline on August 14, 2021. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks had one of the best offenses in football in 2022 with Geno Smith leading the charge at quarterback, but the defense was an issue late in the year, including in the team’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Why did Seattle Seahawks’ choice at No. 5 seem to come out of nowhere?

During his Thursday morning interview with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll shared some insight into his defense, mainly the front seven.

Last year, the Seahawks had a notable change in scheme on defense with new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt utilizing a 3-4 look after year’s of Seattle being a 4-3 base team.

“We have always been a 4-3 scheme that plays with 3-4 personnel,” Carroll said Thursday. “That’s to maintain another position that instead of being a 4-3 down lineman, we would like to have that fourth guy be an athlete that can really run and move and all that. It’s always been an intention to kind of maintain that to get as much speed on the field as possible … That’s to maintain as much athleticism as you can get on the field.”

Players that come to mind in that role are Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin.

While a lot has been made of the Seahawks’ defensive front changing, Carroll said a lot of the changes were on the back end in coverage.

“What changed last year was the influx of more coverage concepts that we used to do that we just reinvented for us. There was a process to it that is in really good shape right now and I’m jacked about where we are now with putting it all together,” he said. “There was a time here where we had evolved into a pretty simplistic way of playing and we kicked butt with it and it worked out great and players matched up and and all that. And then I lost coaches on both sides of the ball and they took our scheme everywhere and people knew how to get after it, because we really had some real intricacies about that made it unique. We’ve just continued to grow and adapt. You’ve got to keep getting better, so that’s where we’ve changed.”

Going back to the defensive line, Seattle D-linemen often played two-gap. Carroll said they have the personnel up front to do both, and highlighted two players in particular.

“(Jarran) Reed is a fantastic technique player on line of scrimmage. And he’s a good one-gap guy and he’s a good two-gap guy, so we’ll use him in those ways,” Carroll said. “You’re gonna see (fourth-round pick) Cam Young. We think he is – well, I gotta find out this weekend when we start – we see him as a guy who can play one-gap and two-gap stuff. And so to have a couple players like that that can be featured in the system, allow other guys to do other things. It’s not as simple as we’re not a single-gap-playing team anymore … It gives us more flexibility. We’re a really smart system and I want to be able to use the stuff to put the players in the best position so that they can be at their best.”

Bear Front

Did the Seahawks play more of a “bear front” on defense in 2022 than in previous seasons?

“The last three years, we featured it. It’s been some of the best stuff that we’ve done and it did fit. It’s why this all happened the way it did,” Carroll said. “But it did fit the scheme that Clint and Sean (Desai) had the background in with Vic (Fangio), and so we were able to incorporate it. It just was a lot of transition in a short amount of time, and we’re just way better tuned in. We’ll be better at it.”

Seattle Seahawks’ edge rushers

The Seahawks had a very good pass-rush tandem in 2022 with Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor each recording 9.5 sacks. Seattle also used a second-round pick last year on Boye Mafe.

This year, the Seahawks used another second-round pick on an edge rusher, this time Derick Hall from Auburn.

“I think they’re more of the same than they are different, Carroll said of those four. “They all have good speed, they’re all athletic, they’re all aggressive, they’re all very strong fit guys that are flexible enough that they can rush the passer primarily, but they also have the ability to do some coverage stuff that we can mix in to make us multiple. I see them more similar than not.

“I think Derick is really a guy that he captures a lot of what Boye has and what Chenna has and what Bruce had last year as he came to us and DT you see in him. (Hall is) gonna fit really well. We want a rotation. I want those guys to be just fast and furious coming off the edge. So they’ll be outside backers in the 3-4 looks and then they’ll be outside defensive ends in the 4-3 looks that we play, and they have the skill set to carry over.”

Inside linebacker depth a ‘good group’

Last year, the Seahawks’ two starting inside linebackers were Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton. It will likely be very different come Week 1 this year as Barton is now with the Washington Commanders while Brooks tore his ACL late last season.

“Jordyn Brooks is a consummate young linebacker with speed and strength and agility and instinct and all that. He’ll fit right in,” Carroll said. “It’ll be as competitive as you can get.”

Until then, the two leaders in the clubhouse are franchise icon Bobby Wagner, who is back after spending last year with the Los Angeles Rams, and Devin Bush, a former top-10 pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both linebackers signed one-year deals with Seattle this offseason.

“Getting Bobby back is a huge deal. He’s such a pro and he just gives us the stability and the background that we need to make sure that we know we’re well-coordinated in the games and orchestrated well with with his leadership,” Carroll said of Wagner.

Of Bush, Carroll said, “Devin is a really talented football player. He was a top-10 pick in the in the draft. Really fast kid. A little bit different package. He’s smaller than the guys we’ve seen, but he’s really built thick and solid in his legs and his lower lower body that gives him the punch that he has. That’s two good guys right off the bat.”

Carroll highlighted a few other linebackers as well.

“Johnny Rhattigan has come back to us better than we’ve ever seen him after his rehab year. He had an extraordinary offseason. He looks faster and stronger. He’s going to be in there battling with us,” he said. “Levi Jones looks different this time around. Another really athletic kid. One of the fastest, most athletic, the tallest of our guys. He’s going to be fitting in and he’s looks exciting on the field right now … That group really looks like we’ve made an advance. And meanwhile don’t forget Nick Bellore is in the midst midst of all of that. He brings us experience and background and savvy and toughness and all that, so it’s a good group now.”

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Seahawks HC Pete Carroll talks defensive scheme, pass rushers, more