Moore: Best way to improve Seahawks’ defense could be replacing Norton

Feb 14, 2020, 10:09 AM | Updated: 10:12 am

Seahawks DC Ken Norton JR...

The Seahawks defense struggled mightily in 2019 under DC Ken Norton Jr. (AP)


Since the season ended, we’ve talked about a number of things to improve the Seahawks’ subpar defense. We’ve asked a bunch of questions too.

Marshawn Lynch, Hawks fullback? It could be an option for 2020

Should the Seahawks re-sign Jadeveon Clowney? What about Mychal Kendricks, Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson – they’re also free agents. Should they sign a pass-rusher or two in free agency? Or bring in a corner to challenge Tre Flowers?

We talk about possible personnel moves nonstop, but there’s one change the Seahawks could make that might be the best one of all. Hire a new defensive coordinator to replace Ken Norton.

Maybe Norton’s predecessors – Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn and Kris Richard – would have struggled with the Seahawks’ defense the last two years. Maybe they would have been handcuffed by the players on the roster. But here’s what kills me – we praise so many players on this defense, such as all of the pending free agents along with Shaquill Griffin, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs.

Most of those players, outside of Reed and McDougald, have been universally complimented for their play this year. And it’s not like Reed and McDougald were bad this year; they were perceived to be above average or at least good enough to be on the field with the starting unit.

Yet these guys who are supposed to be pretty good are collectively pretty bad. I’d argue that if you brought this same defense back in 2020, you’d have a better performance if you made a coaching change at defensive coordinator.

Look at Kansas City. They fired their defensive coordinator last year and brought in Steve Spagnuolo. Under a new coach, the Chiefs’ defense went from 31st in 2018 to 17th in 2019.

Yes, you can point out that they added key pieces to that defense such as Frank Clark and Tyrann Matthieu. But still, the Chiefs proved you can win a Super Bowl with an average defense and a spectacular quarterback. The Seahawks have one of those but not the other.

When you look at Norton’s resume, it’s not all that appealing.

As defensive coordinator in Oakland, the Raiders were 22nd in total defense in 2015, 26th in 2016 and 23rd in 2017. Again, there could have been personnel issues there too, but I would still expect some signs of improvement along the way.

In 2018 in his first year as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, the Seahawks slipped from 11th in total defense to 16th. This year they dropped to 26th, and some of the numbers are really alarming. The Seahawks allowed 6 yards per play. Only the Texans and Bengals were worse at 6.1.

I don’t know X’s and O’s or the first thing about coverage schemes, but like you, I saw that defense week after week, and even untrained eyes like mine tell me that there’s so much room for improvement.

If you still think Norton deserves a third year and that things will change if he gets better players, I just don’t necessarily agree with that.

I’d like to see the Seahawks do something differently. Maybe they’ll never blitz as much as other teams, maybe they’ll stick to Pete Carroll’s defensive philosophy of keeping things in front of them, and maybe they’ll play more base defense than any other team.

But here’s what I’d like to see – a defense that takes more chances by playing more aggressively, and if you get beat over the top as a result on occasion, OK, but the tradeoff could be more interceptions and punts.

I’m also tired of hearing about that base defense being on the field so often. What it tells me is that they weren’t comfortable with any of the players that manned the slot corner spot, and with all three linebackers out there all the time, it left them more vulnerable to tight ends across the middle.

So while we speculate about who the Seahawks should keep and pursue in free agency and the draft, the easiest, least-expensive and best move might be making a change at defensive coordinator.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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Moore: Best way to improve Seahawks’ defense could be replacing Norton