Who would’ve guessed Seattle’s biggest problem would suddenly be the defense? Touted as elite just a few weeks ago, the Seahawks are now struggling a bit. The secondary continues to cover big guys pretty well, but the run defense is becoming a problem. Yes, Adrian Peterson is an incredible player. But it isn’t just Adrian Peterson. For the last three games this unit has not played well against the run.
We spent weeks deliberating over which receivers the Seahawks could target in next April’s draft, among other offensive positions. If the draft took place tomorrow, who’d bet against a defensive player being the pick? Is it the biggest need? Probably.
Russell Wilson improves with each performance and looks every bit the teams quarterback of the future. In fact he’s starting to look special. He is far better than a guy like Christian Ponder who had no business in the first round of the 2011 draft. What’s more, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller are getting involved. The run attack continues to prosper. Seattle’s offense has carried the team against Detroit and Minnesota. Nobody would’ve believed that a few weeks ago.
On the other side of the ball, the defense struggles to get off the field on third down, struggles to stop the run, has difficulty against slot receivers/check downs and isn’t even tackling very well. They get pressure, but it’s inconsistent (especially on the road) and the four man rush isn’t quite as effective as this scheme requires. Losing Jason Jones has been a bigger blow than a lot of people expected.
The draft is deep at defensive tackle which works in two ways. Either you dip into the talent pool early because that’s where the quality is, or you judge whether the depth is sufficient to wait a little. Jones and Alan Branch are both pending free agents so it’s an area we’ll have to keep an eye on. Getting a penetrative three technique appears crucial if Jones walks. Sheldon Richardson is by far the best pure three technique eligible for 2013 and should be an early pick. Sylvester Williams (see tape below) is also first round worthy and Star Lotulelei will be a high pick if teams buy into his upside. It’s worth noting that Alan Branch is a bigger-than-usual starter at the three. If they want to keep the size they could look at Johnathan Hankins or Jonathan Jenkins – both are very athletic for +325lbs.
There’s also the possibility a player like Alec Ogletree – who looks ideal for the Seahawks’ scheme – is available and he’d add to the pass rush and offer genuine safety speed at linebacker. He can cover underneath to a high level and is adept at reading a quarterbacks eyes and breaking on the ball. He could be a top-15 pick but off field concerns might push him deeper into the first.
In the short term they have to deal with what they’ve got and first and foremost get Jones healthy to help the interior rush. This is a team that has proven they can shut down a run game and they’ll no doubt be studying the tape to work out what teams are doing to suddenly be effective against the defense. New York will run the ball a lot next week but don’t have a back like Peterson or Frank Gore. It’s crucial to the teams potential success this year that they sort this problem out quickly. Before people wondered whether a lousy passing game would hold back an elite defense. Now you have to wonder whether the defense is going to hold back a dynamic offense?
Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina) tape vs NC State: