A weak spot last year, Seahawks’ run D much improved so far

Sep 22, 2023, 12:31 PM

Seattle Seahawks...

Jahmyr Gibbs of the Detroit Lions plays against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept 17, 2023. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks’ run defense was a bit of a problem. OK, a big problem.

Through two games this season, it’s one of Seattle’s biggest bright spots, thanks to some specific changes and focus entering the year.

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“Everything that we’re doing right now is a big improvement,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “The containment and the perimeter play has really cleaned up, minimizing the breakout plays is one. … The toughness of the guys up front. It’s fitting together, and we’ve been very aggressive with how we’ve been playing it. Hopefully we can keep rolling.”

Opponents ran all over the Seahawks last season. Seattle allowed 4.9 yards per carry and 152 yards rushing per game, both of which were 30th in the league.

But after revamping the defense in the offseason by bringing back a pair of former standouts in linebacker Bobby Wagner and nose tackle Jarran Reed, and signing defensive ends Dre’Mont Jones and Mario Edwards Jr., the changes are already paying off.

The Seahawks have limited opponents to 2.9 yards per carry so far, third-best behind only Indianapolis and Tennessee.

After the way opposing rushers bullied the Seahawks last year, defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt made it clear coming into training camp that things were going to be different this season.

“If you want to be a great defense, first and foremost you don’t let teams run the football on you,” Hurtt said. “That’s number one. Are you going to make them one-dimensional? So showing that we’ve done this before, understanding this is our language, this is how we teach it, this is how it goes together, this is what it looks like — this is what we’ve got to get back to.”

The run defense was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise awful opener against the Los Angels Rams as Kyren Williams and Cam Akers were held to a combined 81 yards on 37 carries.

Last week in Seattle’s overtime win over Detroit, the Lions ran for 102 yards on 27 carries.

“Guys are just more tuned in, I guess. More locked in,” edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu said. “It’s always been a point of emphasis. Coach Hurtt talked about that going into the season, going into training camp from OTA’s, we’ve got to stop the run, stop the run. Nobody is going to run the ball on us. He kept preaching it and guys finally bought in earlier than it took last year.”

A big part of the early success stopping the run is the increased understanding of how to leverage runners and attack the line of scrimmage, Hurtt said.

“Obviously the big guys up front winning at the line of scrimmage has been a big improvement in that area,” Hurtt said. “Just two games, so we’ve got to keep going in that particular area.”

This week will be another test. Carolina is averaging 5 yards per carry and may lean on its run game more with starting quarterback Bryce Young not likely to play.

“I feel like we’re doing good,” Wagner said. “We’ve been challenged the first two weeks, two really good run teams, but I feel like every week we’re getting better which is what you want.”

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A weak spot last year, Seahawks’ run D much improved so far