The 3 Questions: Expected Seahawks debuts, and what’s the defense’s deal?

Nov 6, 2019, 9:03 AM

Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney...

Even with Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks have struggled to find a consistent pass rush. (Getty)


The Seahawks (7-2) are preparing for a prime-time showdown next Monday against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers in a game that will feature Russell Wilson – a front runner for MVP – against the league’s best defense.

Moore: 8 reasons for hope Seahawks could beat 49ers

The Seahawks could get some help from two new additions, but they’ll also need to solve a growing problem on defense.

Here are the three questions facing Seattle going into Week 10:

What will Seahawks fans see from Josh Gordon?

The Seahawks became Gordon’s third team since 2017 when they claimed him off waivers last Friday. The intrigue is understandable. At his best, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon is an exceptional athlete. In 2013 with the Cleveland Browns, he led the league with 1,646 yards, the 14th highest single-season total in league history – and he missed two games. But Gordon’s multiple violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy have severely limited his playing time, sidetracking what was a promising career early on. Can he find success both on and off the field in Seattle?

He could have his first shot against the 49ers. Gordon is expected to be a participant when the Seahawks return to practice Thursday, and while fans have their own expectations for a talent like Gordon, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters Monday he’s entering the week without any.

“I’ve seen him on film,” Carroll said. “He looks pretty special. He has a good history of making plays and all that. I want to see him when he mixes with our guys and really just take it one step at a time with no expectations on how much he would contribute or play or whatever. I’m just going to see what happens.”

Jake Heaps, a former Seahawks quarterback and current 710 ESPN Seattle host, doesn’t necessarily expect Gordon to take reps away from rookie DK Metcalf just because both players are large targets. But if he’s incorporated into Seattle’s offense, it could certainly still have an impact on targets for receivers further down the depth chart.

“I think he can make a difference in Game 1,” Heaps said during Tuesday on Tom, Jake and Stacy. “You’re not asking him to be Tyler Lockett and run intricate routes in the middle of the field. You’re asking him to be a mismatch problem in one-on-one situations, and that’s his greatest strength. He can stretch the field vertically and do a lot of things you’d want – go-balls, slants, 10-yard stop routes, maybe deep crosses down the field. Those are things he can do, no problem. I think it’s more about building trust that he’s going to show up there every day and put in the work, rather than, ‘Does his talent transfer over?’ It definitely will.”

Can Quandre Diggs give the defense a boost?

The Seahawks’ biggest problem on defense is their lack of a pass rush, but additional help in the secondary certainly wouldn’t hurt. What could be even more helpful is the versatility that Quandre Diggs possesses.

Diggs, a veteran defensive back who Seattle acquired in a trade with Detroit two weeks ago, can play at either safety spot and has also played at nickel corner. Where he hasn’t played yet, however, is in the Seahawks’ secondary, as a hamstring injury has prevented him from making his team debut in each of the past two games, but Diggs is expected to practice this week in the hopes of playing against the 49ers.

Seattle has spent more time than any other team in base defense – keeping three linebackers on the field – but would the presence of Diggs tempt them to use a nickel defense a bit more? So far, Carroll hasn’t said just where he sees Diggs fitting in.

“We’ll see,” Carroll told reporters Monday. “I don’t have anything to go on other than the film I’ve watched. I’m really excited to see him because I like the way he plays.”

What’s going on with the Seahawks’ defense?

Filed under things you never thought you’d see: A Pete Carroll-led team that ranks near the bottom of the league defensively.

The Seahawks have actually fared pretty well against the run, and while that’s also slid back a bit since first couple weeks of the season, they’re still limiting opponents to 102.7 yards per game. That’s 13th overall in the NFL and about the same as the 49ers (102.9).

The struggles have been against opposing passers. The Seahawks are allowing 278.1 yards per game on average – 28th league-wide – and have tallied just 15 sacks.

All together, Seattle is allowing 6.2 yards per play, which is better than only the Raiders, the one-win Dolphins, and the winless Bengals. For comparison, they were allowing 4.9 yards per play in 2017. This year, both San Francisco and New England have managed to limit opponents to 4.5 yards or less. Seattle’s 2018 defense took a dip from 2017 to 5.9 yards per play, but also benefited from career years by defensive end Frank Clark (14.5 sacks) and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (10).

Clark may be gone, but this defense still has Reed, pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner – which makes Seattle’s sluggish defensive performances all the more puzzling.

Talking with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Tuesday morning, Brock Huard compared the state of the defense to the frustration the fans and team must have felt during struggles with the run game in previous seasons.

“The truth shall set you free, and the truth is this defense as it’s currently composed and playing – with their front and coverages and tying them together – is not working,” Huard said. “And over this next seven games it’s OK to say that.

“Remember those years when we’d ask Carroll about the run game and the O-line? Year after year, week after week, it was, ‘What are you gonna do?’ And it’s just like, ‘Well, what do you want me to say? Yeah, it’s not good enough, and there’s not immediate answers to fix all of this.’ And there’s no immediate answers for this defense until Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green either improve incrementally or take a significant step.”

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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The 3 Questions: Expected Seahawks debuts, and what’s the defense’s deal?