K.J. Wright: What Seahawks’ defense can do to fix woes on 3rd down

Oct 11, 2023, 12:36 PM

Seattle Seahawks safeties...

Quandre Diggs of the Seattle Seahawks with Julian Love after an interception on Oct. 2, 2023. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Through the first four games of the year, the Seattle Seahawks have done some great things on defense.

Huard on Seattle Seahawks: What stands out in each of 3 phases

The Hawks rank 19th in points allowed after being 25th last year, and most notably are sixth in rushing yards allowed per game after finishing 31st in that category last year. Seattle is also seventh in the league in sacks, and that’s despite being off last week on their bye.

Where the Hawks have really struggled, though, is on third down.

“Third-down defense? It’s 31st in the league,” former NFL quarterback Brock Huard said on Wednesday. “Now the problem is offensively, they’re also 31st. And I think if we would have said, ‘Hey, hit the quarter pole of the season and the Seahawks will be 31st in third-down defense and 31st in third-down offense?’ Yeah, I think we would have said they’re 1-3. They’re 3-1.”

Huard had a simple question for K.J. Wright during the former Seahawks linebacker’s weekly Seattle Sports show: How do you the Hawks’ fix third-down defense?

“That’s not sustainable,” Wright said.

When looking at third downs, Wright had a message for Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.

Quandre Diggs is the key to solving this third-down problem,” Wright said, referring to Seattle’s Pro Bowl free safety. “He is constantly, consistently right there in the middle of the field just being the safety blanket, just being there in case someone messes up. This man played nickel (cornerback) in his younger days in Detroit. Switch him and (Julian) Love. Please do that. I see Love covering receivers a lot, I see Love covering (opponent’s) star guys – he was on Amon-Ra St. Brown (in Detroit in Week 2) … Switch these two guys. Let Quandre Diggs come down in the box, play man-to-man, play Cover-3, bust to the flats. He is the key to solving all of this. I’m telling you, he is the key … If I’m the defensive coordinator, this is the first adjustment that I’m making.”

During Week 6, the Seahawks have a tough task in the passing game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a star quarterback in Joe Burrow and one of the best receivers in football in Ja’Marr Chase, who had 192 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday in a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Wright pointed to a game from his Seahawks career in 2018 against the Minnesota Vikings, who had a star receiver duo in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Wright said Seattle had a “beautiful” gameplan for those two.

“We went three defensive linemen, one linebacker, and the rest were (defensive backs),” Wright said. “And when I tell you we put together a gameplan, we just doubled those guys. There were two guys on these two guys, and they’re not catching the ball. They have to go somewhere else. When you’re facing a Ja’Marr Chase, you better not let this man take over this ball game. You better double-team this man, you better cloud this man. Do not let him take over like he did last week. And so I’m looking forward to seeing how do they take away what they do best.”

With the Seahawks coming off the bye, they likely will be close to full strength in the secondary, too.

“What’s really cool is they’ve got more clay to mold in that way than they’ve ever had,” Huard said. “I mean, you’ve got Jamal (Adams), you’ve got Devon (Witherspoon), hopefully you can get Artie Burns and some of these guys back – Tre Brown cleared concussion protocol. So you’ve got more pieces to work with than they’ve had in a lot of years.”

Listen to the full K.J. Wright Show at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Bumpus: How Seahawks’ Kenneth Walker III can help open up offense
Seahawks Notebook: Week 6 preview, NFC landscape, health updates
Seahawks Check-In: What we’ve learned through four games
• The route concept for Seahawks to get JSN more involved

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