Rost: Seahawks Q&A – How far can improved defense take them?

Jul 12, 2023, 12:41 PM | Updated: Jul 16, 2023, 12:07 pm

Seattle Seahawks Buccaneers...

Tariq Woolen of Seattle Seahawks looks on during a game against Tampa Bay. (Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

(Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks training camp is less than a month away. Before we jump back into the NFL season – something I know many of you can’t wait to do – let’s first take a look at where this team stands this summer.

Here are a few of your top listener questions submitted via Twitter. This is the second of two Q&As, so make sure you check out the first (link below) if you haven’t already done so.

Rost’s Seahawks Q&A Part 1: Adams’ impact, Eagles comparison

Seattle Seahawks Q&A

Question: If the Seahawks’ defense finishes in the top 15, can the offense carry Seattle to a championship?

I like this question because the late-season struggles from Seattle often have me forgetting just how great they were offensively for the first chunk of the 2022 season. Even with another new face at center, two rookie tackles and a rookie running back, the Seahawks still found ways to succeed, with an exception being an ugly loss to the 49ers in Week 2.

Seattle was better on third down than in 2021 and averaged more points in the first quarter than any other team in football through the first half of the season, which was an ironic twist given Russell Wilson previously lamenting that they didn’t play aggressively earlier in games. He wasn’t necessarily wrong; the Seahawks often turned to Wilson and the offense to come up clutch in the fourth. But Geno Smith’s style of play and a surprise season from their rookies led to efficiency early.

The offense wasn’t without its struggles, and that became especially evident when running back Kenneth Walker III was out of the lineup. A Seahawks offense with little run game from Weeks 10-15 resulting in a 1-4 stretch and saw a third down conversion rate hovering around 32%. Still, they finished as a top-10 scoring offense and Smith finished with a franchise high in passing yards. The Seahawks have a chance to improve this year with another young halfback (second-round pick Zach Charbonnet) and the best wide receiver from the 2023 class (first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba).

To answer the question: a drastically improved defense would certainly give this team a better chance to advance through the playoffs. Take their Week 5 loss to New Orleans as an admittedly limited example. Smith threw for three touchdowns and finished with a 139.7 rating, wide receiver Tyler Lockett racked up 104 yards, and the team put 32 points on the board. But against an Andy Dalton-led Saints team, Seattle’s defense allowed 100-yard rushing performances to both Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill.

There are two reasons I hesitate to claim they’ll be a favorite for a championship even with an improved defense. First, the offense was the better half of the ball for a good chunk of the season but isn’t without its flaws. Smith will need to cut those turnovers, for one, and their young tackles will need a stronger finish to the season in 2023. Secondly, they’ll also need to get past two of the best defenses in football in NFC favorites Philadelphia and San Francisco, both of whom they’ll face in the regular season.

Question: Why should the signings of Bobby Wagner, Devin Bush, Dre Jones and Jarran Reed give fans confidence the defense can be turned around?

I’m especially turning to Wagner for this one. Seattle didn’t stumble against the run solely because they lost Wagner, but he was an exceptional anchor in the middle of the defense for a decade. He continued to do so for the Rams last year, where Pro Football Focus raved about his run defense in particular.

Question: Who do you predict at starting cornerback and nose tackle?

No surprise but I’m sure we’re looking at Tariq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon as your outside corners and hoping that rookie Cam Young takes off at nose tackle, where the Seahawks truly don’t have many other options. Cornerback Michael Jackson has been the star of the offseason so far but I don’t think any expect him to win a starting job over a fifth overall pick (Witherspoon). That said, my Bump and Stacy co-host Michael Bumpus also doesn’t think Jackson will be traded for defensive line help. The Seahawks love depth and flexibility on defense, especially with the secondary.

More on the Seahawks

Bumpus: How 2023 will be different for Seahawks’ Geno, 49ers’ Purdy
Huard: Who’s the most likely breakout player for Seattle Seahawks?
Rost: What will it take for Pete Carroll to win Coach of the Year?
Huard: What’s ‘the bar’ for Seattle Seahawks rookie Smith-Njigba?
Huard: Why is O-line the Seattle Seahawks position with most upside?

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