DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Is the Seahawks’ defense just injured, or is it old?

Dec 19, 2017, 9:57 AM | Updated: 10:55 am
The Seahawks' defense has been depleted by injuries this season. (AP)...
The Seahawks' defense has been depleted by injuries this season. (AP)
(AP)

The worst loss of Pete Carroll’s tenure as Seahawks coach has spawned a whole lot of soul searching and some navel-gazing.

Here are three things we’re still trying to figure out two days after Seattle lost control of its playoff possibilities.

O’Neil: What we learned from Seahawks’ loss to Rams

1. Is the Seahawks defense injured or is it old?

Back in 2002, Mike Holmgren made an assessment that was treated more like an admission. The then-Seahawks coach acknowledged that Seattle had built the offense from scratch with young players in his time there while bringing in veterans to patch up the defense. He said if he had it to do over again, he would do it exactly the opposite with a young defense and more veteran offense. Fast forward to 2017 when the Seahawks started the season with one of the league’s youngest starting lineups on offense and one of the oldest on defense. Are the injuries the Seahawks have suffered on defense a sign of an aging unit or simply an injury-riddled season that can happen in a full-contact, collision sport like football?

2. Is Bobby Wagner the most important member of the defense?

Rams running back Todd Gurley gained 152 yards on Sunday when Wagner played in spite of a hamstring injury that pretty clearly limited his range. It was the most yards the Seahawks had given up on the ground since a 2014 loss in Kansas City, a game that Wagner also missed, that time because of a foot injury. When Wagner returned for the final six games that season, Seattle’s defense promptly held five opponents to seven points or fewer. Wagner was so important that he earned an MVP vote from Tony Dungy that year. And as pivotal as Earl Thomas’ presence is – and his injury showed that last year – Wagner might be even more important to this team.

3. Why has Seattle gone two years (and counting) without being able to run the ball?

Last year the Seahawks’ top rusher had been released by the team midseason as Christine Michael finished the year in Green Bay. This year, the Seahawks’ top rusher won’t even be a running back. Not only that, but Russell Wilson is responsible for three for the team’s four rushing touchdowns. Don’t cite a lack of investment along the offensive line where Seattle currently starts three players who were first-round choices and two more who are second-round picks. Don’t tell me it’s a lack of alternatives at running back because the Seahawks have been willing to try everyone they can find only to watch Alex Collins push for a 1,000-yard season elsewhere. Tom Cable came to Seattle with a reputation for building a top-five rushing offense but allowing his quarterback to get hit. Well, the Seahawks quarterback is still getting hit, and he’s also the only credible rushing threat that Seattle has.

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O’Neil: Is the Seahawks’ defense just injured, or is it old?