BROCK AND SALK

Huard breaks down why Seahawks’ new defense will look like ‘a blur’

May 21, 2024, 12:24 PM

Seattle Seahawks Byron Murphy II...

Byron Murphy II of the Seattle Seahawks at rookie minicamp on May 3. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

When the Seattle Seahawks take the field this fall, they will sport a cutting-edge defensive scheme under new head coach and defensive guru Mike Macdonald.

What separates new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald? Analyst dives in

The 36-year-old Macdonald had immense success with his scheme as the defensive coordinator in Baltimore, overseeing a Ravens defense that in 2023 became the first in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed per game, sacks and takeaways. Prior to that, he spent the 2021 season as the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, where he laid the foundation for a defense the propelled the 2023 Wolverines to a national championship.

What will Macdonald’s defense look like in action for the Seahawks? Former NFL quarterback Brock Huard weighed in on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“Just a blur,” said Huard, who is also a FOX football analyst. “A blur. It looks like Michigan. You got to see this scheme (there). Ask (former UW Huskies quarterback) Michael Penix what that was like to try to attack that scheme. …  It was one that could week to week really adapt and morph.”

As Ted Nguyen of The Athletic detailed in an article last week, Macdonald’s scheme features a unique level of positional versatility and interchangeability. That allows him to constantly mix his fronts and pressures, which leaves opposing offenses struggling to determine where exactly the pressure will be coming from. It also enables him to adapt and cater his defensive scheme to each opponent.

“Week to week, we will be talking about a different defensive attack,” Huard said. “It’s not gonna just be the same scheme, the same attack week to week. That opponent, that quarterback, should have a hard time week to week getting ready for this Seahawk defense.

“(The Seahawks) have got enough personnel on their D-line and in their secondary to be able, week to week … to take away the strength of your team and make you beat them left-handed,” he added. “That’s the beauty of this, and that’s what I’m really excited to watch this season.”

Better communication and organization

Huard also is excited about the potential for improved communication and organization in Macdonald’s defense.

As Nguyen detailed in his article, Macdonald doesn’t actually use many different defensive fronts. But due to the flexible nature of his scheme, he’s able to run all sorts of pressures out of those limited fronts, which makes it complex for offenses to decipher. Huard and others have referred to this as an “illusion of complexity.”

Related: Huard explains how Hawks ’D will create ‘illusion of complexity’

“It’s simple for the defense to remember,” co-host Mike Salk said. “It’s complicated for the offense to sort out.”

According to Nguyen, Macdonald teaches and organizes his blitzes in a unique way. Nguyen explained that most teams attach their pressures to specific defensive fronts, whereas Macdonald attaches his pressures to patterns. As a result, players end up learning the entire pressure pattern instead of just their individual roles. That allows them to better understand what their teammates are doing, and it ultimately enables them to switch positions and apply pressure from a wide variety of players and spots on the field.

“Mike Macdonald’s system is one where everybody has to learn what to do,” Huard said. “Mike is teaching it at every level to understand what everybody’s doing, because everybody’s involved. It’s why (defensive end) Dre’Mont Jones is training and doing drops right now and learning to cover a little bit, because guess what? You might be asked to do that in a couple of these simulated pressures, blitz looks, illusions of complexity. It just involves and engages everybody – everybody – on that defense.”

Huard is hopeful that will cut down on the frequent miscommunication issues that have plagued the Seahawks’ defense in recent years.

“(We) should never hear communication issues,” Huard said. “Never again should we hear Tre Flowers after the game talking about communication issues, Quandre Diggs talking about communication issues, guys on the D-line talking about communication issues. That should be eliminated from the vernacular. That should be done, should be over, because everybody’s gotta learn every component of this scheme, and that’s what they’re doing now. … Everybody sure seems to be bought in and working their butts off at the VMAC.”

Listen to the full conversation from Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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