Moore: Seahawks’ defense, the worst of Carroll era, could thwart playoff run

Jan 2, 2020, 10:55 AM

Seahawks DBs Shaquill Griffin, Lano Hill...

The Seahawks' defense allowed 6,106 yards in 2019, the second-most in team history. (Getty)


I think we’re all trying to make a good case for the Seahawks’ chances to beat the Eagles in their first playoff game Sunday in Philadelphia.

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It’s pretty easy to do this week for four fairly good reasons:

• 1) The Eagles’ injury list is longer than the Seahawks’.

• 2) The Seahawks have a better team regardless and are favored by two points.

• 3) The Seahawks have already beaten the Eagles this year in Philadelphia.

• 4) And they’re 7-1 on the road this season.

I could go on with more reasons, but it’s not this week I’m worried about. As much as we hope they’ll string four playoff victories together and win the Super Bowl, it borders on highly unrealistic if not impossible because of the worst defense we’ve seen in Seattle since Pete Carroll became head coach in 2010.

The numbers bear it out. They’re 26th in total defense, allowing 382 yards a game. They’re almost equally bad against the run and the pass, 22nd in rushing defense and 27th in passing defense. You’re also aware of the poor pass rush – there was only one team with fewer than Seattle’s 28 sacks (Miami with 23).

We talk about individual players and make them out to be better than they really are. Or if these certain players are actually that good, then it must mean some of their teammates are dreadful because overall, it’s a way-below-average defense.

In one two-week stretch against the 49ers and Eagles, they were top-notch, but before that and ever since, forget about it. Your own two eyes confirmed what Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times pointed out earlier this week:

• This season the Seahawks allowed 6,106 yards, second-most in team history.

• They allowed 22 rushing touchdowns, second-most in team history.

• They allowed 6 yards per play, fourth-worst in the NFL this season.

Takeaways have compensated for the sorry stats – the Seahawks have recorded 32 of them, helping them finish tied for third in the league in turnover differential at plus-12.

Credit free safety Quandre Diggs for making the biggest difference. In his five games, the Seahawks have come up with 16 takeaways. In the last two games without Diggs, sidelined by a high-ankle sprain, the Seahawks went 0-2 and had no takeaways.

It’s why everyone hopes Diggs can play this week because a bad defense is even worse without him. Diggs’ replacement, Lano Hill, isn’t cutting it, and he’s not the only one.

I mean, really, can someone be honest about Bobby Wagner? I take that back – Pro Football Focus was honest a week ago, saying that Wagner, through 15 games, had allowed 817 yards in pass coverage, the most by a linebacker in a season since 2013. I don’t know how they measured it and whether Wagner has been that terrible or not, but still, can we at least agree that Wagner has not been worth the $18 million he’s making this season? He appeared to be selected to the Pro Bowl this year on reputation alone.

For that matter, if K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks are so good, why are tight ends open so often across the middle against the Seahawks? After 15 games, Pro Football Focus said the Seahawks ranked 31st, allowing 1,013 yards to tight ends, and gave up the most yards after catch to tight ends.

But I can hear you, maybe you think that’s unfair, maybe some of those routes should have been covered by defensive backs. Fine, you might be right, but whatever the case, these tight ends are getting wide open against someone.

Shaquill Griffin is another player who always appears immune to blame. From people who know the game, I hear he’s had a good season. But here’s what always makes me wonder about Griffin – he has gone 28 consecutive games without an interception. Name me another supposedly elite corner who has no INTs in his last 28 starts. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid, but is he really all that good? On this defense, I guess he is.

Let me ask you a question. How many of Seattle’s players would start for a top-10 defensive team? Jadeveon Clowney for sure. Kendricks and Diggs, probably. Tre Flowers, Griffin, Wright and Wagner? You could build a case for them, but I’d have my doubts. Anyone else? Before the season, Jarran Reed would have been an easy answer but not sot much anymore after a lackluster season that started with a six-game suspension.

That’s a long way of expressing extreme skepticism when it comes to Seattle making any kind of run past this week. If the season ends in Green Bay or San Francisco next week, we’ll point to the defense as the biggest reason why.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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Moore: Seahawks’ defense, the worst of Carroll era, could thwart playoff run