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Huard: Seahawks’ defense needs ‘ballhawk’ at cornerback

Brock Huard wants the Seahawks to pair Shaquill Griffin with a ballhawk at corner. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ top offseason priority will likely be keeping defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in Seattle for years to come, but after re-signing him, what do the Seahawks need to do to take a step forward next year, especially on defense?

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After years of good to great defenses in Seattle, the defense was underwhelming in 2019, ranking near the bottom of nearly every major defensive category. The struggles in pass defense were even more evident, especially in the team’s playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

710 ESPN Brock Huard said the team is really lacking elite playmaking ability at cornerback.

“That’s got to change moving forward,” he said on the Thursday edition of Danny and Gallant. “When this (team) was humming and at its very very best, you had one of the great ballhawks in all of the NFL in Richard Sherman who led the NFL in interceptions in his seven-year stretch here in Seattle and was so dominant early on when people tried to pick on him.”

The Seahawks let Sherman walk in free agency after the 2017 season and their corners haven’t had much success in picking off the opposing quarterback since then.

In 2018, Seattle’s corners had just three interceptions. Shaquill Griffin had two interceptions and Justin Coleman, who is now with the Detroit Lions, had one.

This past season, Tre Flowers was the only cornerback to record an interception. He had three.

Despite not recording an interception this season, Griffin had a good year in terms of pass coverage and pass breakups. Huard thinks he should be a key part of Seattle’s defense going forward.

“He is absolutely a starting corner in this league, but kind of like sacks versus pressures, (interceptions compared to pass breakups) are game changers,” Huard said. “Your safeties got them. Your linebackers got enough of them.”

Pairing Griffin with a corner who can take the ball away would be a huge step forward for the defense.

“I’d love to see a true ballhawking corner,” Huard said. “Like if you can’t play the ball, I’m done with you. I’m done with those experiments. I need someone at that position that knows routes, knows anticipation and ultimately knows how to go up and get that ball and take it away.

Michael Bumpus was on the show and asked whether a player like Chris Harris, who has shined for the Denver Broncos and is 32, would be a good fit for Seattle. While he is a great player, veteran cornerbacks have struggled to acclimate in Seattle and the way head coach Pete Carroll wants his cornerbacks to play.

“I think sometimes it is hard for veteran guys that have played in different systems and spent 10 years of their careers just fundamentally doing things differently in their technique than what Pete feels very very strongly about in how to go about limiting those big plays,” Huard said.

Flowers has had an up and down first two seasons of his career, and ended the season on a low note as he struggled in coverage against the Packers and had two unnecessary pass interference penalties against the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild car round. He was a bit of an experiment for Seattle as he played safety in college, and injuries forced him into action as a starter last season as a rookie. Huard wants a true corner playing on the outside.

“(I want) somebody who in college showed you they’ve got a sense for the ball, they know how to anticipate and they know how to catch,” Huard said. “I just want an elite elite corner that knows how to do that. Not a safety turned corner, not a project-type corner – I want a ballhawking corner for this secondary.”

The NFL Draft would be one place to look, with the Seahawks owning the 27th overall pick and enough picks to potentially move up if wanted – though Seattle typically trades down. Free agency is another place to look, though, as Huard said, veteran cornerbacks have often struggled to mesh with Carroll’s system.

Huard thinks the Seahawks could use their draft picks in another way.

“I think that trade market will one that will be very enticing over the next eight months,” he said. “The ability to trade your supplemental picks, the ability to have some top-end picks in your back pocket, the possibility of trading some current players at an area of strength on your roster that other teams need … We’ve seen it the last couple years, more and more trades in the NFL, and I think that’s an avenue we have to be a little more open to than we have in the past.”

While the team could go get a playmaker for the nickel corner position, Huard likes what he’s seen from rookie Ugo Amadi.

“I want to see him really get that opportunity to run that position,” Huard said. “I do think he’s got that sense for the ball. He was always around it.”

Listen to Huard’s thought at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard on Twitter.

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