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Seahawks’ defense lacked intimidation factor it must get back in 2020

The Seahawks were second-to-last in sacks, even with Jadeveon Clowney. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

While mic’d up for a Monday Night Football game against New England in October, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was recorded saying one of the more memorable quotes of the NFL season.

“I’m seeing ghosts.”

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Unfortunately for the Seahawks, nobody was saying that about their defense in 2019. Even though they made the playoffs and nearly won the NFC West, that could be considered in spite of their performance on defense, which ranked 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (381.6) and was tied for second-to-last in sacks (28).

The absence of any ‘ghost’ comments is indicative of what 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps said was the most important thing the Seahawks were missing on that side of the ball.

“They lacked attitude. They lacked presence,” the former Seahawks quarterback said during Wednesday’s edition of Tom, Jake and Stacy. “That was something that was disappointing to me because you look at defenses in the past, and when they play like that, that means that they’re having fun, that means they feel like they’re invincible and they’re playing at a high level, and that attitude is felt to the other sideline.”

That’s not for lack of trying. While the Seahawks didn’t have anything like the Legion of Boom that led the defense earlier in the decade, a number of players did at times bring the physicality that head coach Pete Carroll’s teams used to be known for.

“They do have pieces. (Safety) Quandre Diggs is a guy like that. I think (safety) Marquise Blair is a guy like that. We’ve seen (linebacker) Bobby Wagner be that person before, (defensive end Jadeveon) Clowney. But you gotta have it all across the board – all across the board. And I think that’s something they really gotta try and capture and get back to.”

Tom Wassell added that when the Seahawks were known as a more aggressive team on defense, it had a benefit beyond the plays that fans saw on the field.

“We said it from the beginning of the year, this team really on defense, they lacked a viciousness. They lacked that intimidation,” Wassell said. “The intimidation factor that the 2013-14 Seahawks had, that carried over. It didn’t just happen in the first couple plays of a game. It happened there but it carried over so that the other team that you were about to face was thinking about it and game-planning for it all week. That’s another thing (opposing teams) have to account for.”

And just like what happened to Darnold against the Patriots, the old Seahawks defenses were able to rattle even the best in the game.

“I saw on tape (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers in his prime not find wide-open receivers (against the Seahawks). Why? Because he was seeing ghosts,” Heaps said. “Because he felt like that defense, because of their presence, was getting to him faster. That the windows were shorter, when in reality there were guys that were open and his mind was just sped-up. That’s the type of stuff that you want your defense to have, that presence and that fear factor. Hopefully that’s something they can get back to and recapture in 2020. That’s something they have to do.”

You can hear Tom, Jake and Stacy’s discussion in the Four Downs segment at about the 18:35 mark in this podcast from Wednesday’s show.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell, Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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