Moore: Why the Seahawks’ struggling defense needs changes, not excuses

Nov 6, 2019, 11:16 AM
Seahawks LB K.J. Wright...
The Seahawks have used a lot of base defense with more linebackers in 2019. (Getty)

I don’t know when it happened or why it happened, but I’m a person who’s typically cynical, skeptical and negative. My glass isn’t half-empty, it’s usually completely empty. I can find the down side to almost everything.

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I think it started with being a journalism student at Washington State. We were taught to be objective when we covered teams. The biggest no-no was being a “homer.” You wrote about what you heard and saw, never slanting it to the home team’s point of view. Everything was right down the middle.

Maybe it’s wrong, and maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t like sugar-coated coverage of home teams. I’d much rather hear an announcer tell me what’s what instead of spinning some B.S. about so-and-so’s struggles and how he’s bound to bounce back because he’s a tough kid or whatever. Maybe he’s just not very good and never will be, and if an announcer tells me that, I’m thinking “hallelujah,” he’s seeing what I’m seeing.

For instance, it seems to me that everyone keeps making excuses for the Seahawks’ defense. It will get better this week or next week or sometime soon anyway. Ziggy Ansah is bound to improve. Jarran Reed has just returned – even though he’s been back for three games now – and will be just like he was last year.

One of my favorites: The pass defense has been awful, but at least Shaquill Griffin is playing well. And I’m thinking “Really?!?!” He is?!?!” Truth be known, he might be, but since he’s a major part of a secondary that routinely gets eaten alive, I wonder if that’s the case. Griffin, as the team’s best corner, has not had an interception in 23 consecutive games. But I know someone will tell me they’re not throwing in his direction so he has limited opportunities for picks.

I’m also not sold on everyone saying the linebackers are great and that’s why the Seahawks stay in their base defense more than any other team. But if they’re so great, why aren’t they part of a defense that’s at least above average? For all of the good plays they make, Bobby Wagner hasn’t been the difference-maker he’s been in the past, Mychal Kendricks misses a lot of tackles and isn’t the best in pass coverage and K.J. Wright strikes me as not being as impactful as he used to be.

Again, maybe I’m wrong about most of these things because I don’t study tape and I don’t know much about X’s and O’s if anything at all. I just see the games with two untrained eyes, but they’re trained enough to see what you’re seeing – a subpar defense living on borrowed time, a defense that is likely to be exposed more than ever when they enter the next five-game stretch against teams with winning records.

I understand the optimism and bright side of things if you’re Pete Carroll, who’s always happy-go-lucky. But the rest of us who are watching his defense? It stands out as worse than usual because we’ve grown accustomed to watching Carroll defenses that suffocate opponents or at least slow them down. The pass defense is 28th in the league, and because it’s been so bad we don’t notice that the run defense isn’t much better – the Seahawks are 27th in the NFL, allowing 4.7 rushing yards per carry.

If I have to hear the following two phrases one more time, I think I’ll become physically ill:

• 1) The defensive backs are keeping everything in front of them.

• 2) It’s a a bend-but-don’t break defense.

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First of all, if your defensive backs are keeping everything in front of them, the coaches mustn’t feel like they’re good enough to challenge receivers in tighter man-to-man coverage. So they allow too much cushion as a result. And personally, I’d rather take a chance on getting beat deep once in awhile than to continue to watch journeymen like Matt Schaub carve them up with 460 yards of dinking and dunking. With tighter coverage, they might have gotten a pick or two to stop drives and give their offense a short field.

Secondly, every bend-but-don’t-break defense that I’ve watched over the years is simply not very good. Being a Coug fan, I have a lot of experience in watching bend-but-don’t-break defenses. Trust me, eventually those kind of defenses break. And you get really tired of hoping the other team’s quarterback makes a bad throw on third down because you pretty much know your defensive backs aren’t going to make a play if the QB’s on target.

The Seahawks need to shake things up with scheme and personnel. If I were to give defensive coordinator Ken Norton some advice, it would sound something like this:

“Hey, Kenny, other teams fire coordinators in the middle of the season, and if there’s such a thing as a defensive-coordinator hot seat, at the rate your troops are playing, I think you’re on one. So if I’m you, I’m calling more blitzes because you know the front four isn’t going to get there. And not just with the linebackers, send the corners, heck, send the safeties once in awhile, send ’em all if you have to. Change it up, they’re hitting your fastballs out of the park.

“And stop thinking you’re ahead of the curve by playing your base defense so much. Where has that gotten you? Nowhere. Replace Jamar Taylor with Ugo Amadi at the nickel corner spot. Like what? He’s going to be worse? Amadi was a heck of a play-maker at Oregon and he’s been flashing on special teams. Maybe he’ll make up for rookie miskakes with his contagious exuberance.

“Then hope to heck that Quandre Diggs can pump some life into your defense. With the big hits from Diggs and Marquise Blair, maybe some of the receivers will get alligator arms and we’ll see a little bit of that intimidating boom back in the secondary.

“One more thing: I know he was a heck of a player in Detroit, but get Ziggy out of the defensive-line rotation. He just doesn’t have it anymore.

“And lastly, Kenny, I loved your dad as a heavyweight boxer, saw him beat Boone Kirkman at the Coliseum in 1974 and always pulled for him against Ali.”

The most unsettling part of the Seahawks’ defense – if there were solutions, they would have come up with them by now. It looks like the best-case scenario involves a Super Bowl run with what we’ve already been watching – a high-scoring offense that compensates for a lackluster defense.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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Moore: Why the Seahawks’ struggling defense needs changes, not excuses