Is there hope for the Seattle Seahawks' historically bad defense?

Jamal Adams has been the standout performer on the Seahawks defense but he can't do it all himself.

The Seattle Seahawks are reeling right now after three defeats in their last four matches saw them slip to 6-3 on the season, leaving them in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC West. Having started the season like a house on fire, Russell Wilson has cooled off significantly and he’s no longer able to carry the ‘Hawks, in particular the defense.

Wilson’s MVP-level performances had papered over the cracks for a defense that has been consistently carved up and is on course to give up the most passing yards in NFL history entering Week 11. Having once been home to the ‘Legion of Boom’, how did it get so bad for Pete Carroll’s men and is there any light at the end of the tunnel as the season begins to make the turn for home?

Seahawks’ flaws nothing new

Seattle entered the season knowing they had issues on defense, particularly when it came to stopping the pass. In 2019, they gave up the seventh-most yards and conceded the 11th highest number of points in the NFL. Those are hardly the numbers of a team intent on a Super Bowl, as the Seahawks always seem to be under Carroll.

It was hoped trades for safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar, and the selections of linebacker Jordyn Brooks and defensive end Darrell Taylor in the draft, would go a long way to stopping the bleeding, but that hasn’t been the case.

On paper, Seattle’s secondary looks elite but Adams, Dunbar, Quandre Diggs, Shaquill Griffin, and Marquise Blair have only been on the field all together once this year due to injuries. The health of that quintet remains in question with Dunbar struggling with a long-term knee issue, Adams battling a shoulder problem, and Griffin having hamstring/concussion worries.

Those problems have meant Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. haven’t been able to utilize their preferred coverage schemes and they have been shredded as a result, giving up a league-worst 353.3 passing yards per game on average. With Atlanta just ahead of them on that list at 310.3 yards per game, the size of the problem becomes clear.

Pass rush problems

The blame doesn’t entirely lie with the secondary though as things upfront haven’t been much better.

Seattle has been crying out for an upgrade to their pass rush for a couple of years but haven’t got anything out of second-round pick Taylor, who has been constantly battling injuries.

With the D-line offering little, Norton Jr. has been forced to use Adams more as a pass rusher than in coverage. No doubt Adams is great at getting to the quarterback, leading Seattle’s defense with 5.5 sacks, but that’s not the only reason why the Seahawks gave up two first-round picks for him.

A trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for Carlos Dunlap has resulted in an improvement in the production from the defensive line but it is still very much a work in progress.

Turning the corner

With Wilson’s cooking receiving some bad reviews, it is now or never for the defense to step up to the plate and there are some small signs that they are trending in the right direction.

They produced their best performance of the season in Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, bringing their average points per game conceded down to below 30. The run defense has been excellent, giving up less than 100 yards per game on average, while they rank fifth when it comes to takeaways this season, averaging close to two per game.

The Seahawks’ points average is likely to go back up again when they face the Arizona Cardinals in Thursday’s crunch divisional clash but after that, there are plenty of opportunities for the defense to gain some confidence. After this week, they don’t face another top-20 ranked offense until Week 16 with three games against teams from the abominable NFC East and a meeting with the New York Jets to come.

Those games are also an opportunity for Wilson to get back on track, meaning any improvements the defense can make, however small, to compensate the QB can only enhance the credentials of a team still very much in the Super Bowl picture.

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