Here are some notes after the Seahawks moved to 3-0…
Pete Carroll is down on his defense and a little embarrassed
I think it’s clear. His body language and energy was zapped in his post-game press conference — not for the first time.
Carroll has cut a frustrated figure so far. Understandably so. He’s a highly respected Head Coach with a defensive background and he’s in charge of a defense that is putting on a horror show.
According to Brian Nemhauser at Hawk Blogger, no defense in NFL history has allowed more passing yards in the first three games of the season:
No defense in NFL history has allowed more passing yards in the first three games of the season than the Seahawks. It's not close.
1. SEA 1,292
2. NE 1,131 (2011)
3. SF 1,107 (2005)
4. HOU 1,106 (2010)
5. TAM 1,088 (2018)
— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) September 28, 2020
The Seahawks are also only six yards off being the all-time worst passing defense through three games in terms of yardage:
Remarkably, the Seahawks have not given up the most yards in NFL history through three games. Thank the 2019 Miami Dolphins.
1. MIA 1,498 (2019)
2. SEA 1,492
3. WAS 1,464 (2013)
— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) September 28, 2020
At the current pace, the Seahawks will give up 6890 passing yards this season. Last year’s league leader for yards conceded was Detroit with 4551.
This will be denting Carroll’s pride. I suspect the decision to ‘Let Russ Cook’ was partly through need rather than design. He knows they couldn’t play complementary football with this defense.
It’s easy to sympathise with Carroll. The Seahawks won the last two games, almost certainly, thanks to the culture he has created. No other team in the league is capable of winning close games at the rate of Carroll’s Seahawks.
Yet it’s equally fair to say this isn’t good enough. They entered the off-season stating they needed to fix the pass rush as a priority. Somehow, they’ve made the pass rush and the entire defense on the whole far worse.
Someone has to fix this and/or take responsibility.
What are the solutions?
Currently I think the options are limited. However, as I said last week, I do think there’s a rainbow ready to emerge. They just need the rain to subside.
With so many teams facing cap hell next year due to the economical impact of Covid-19, there’s a good chance we’ll see a fire sale down the line. When the Eagles, who need to raise tens of millions, can’t even beat the Bengals at home (and now face a gauntlet of upcoming games) — the chances are they will consider eating dead money this year to take cash off the books in 2021.
They aren’t alone. Several other teams are going to have some big decisions to make.
That could mean bargains to be had — either because teams cut players in a way they never would’ve dreamed of in the past, or they trade players at reduced prices.
What’s the alternative solution? You can’t walk into an off-season $60-80m over the cap.
The Seahawks possibly need to try and get through a few weeks here, get to the trade deadline and then maybe find some options. The problem is they don’t have a ton of cap space to play with themselves — so they’ll have to be creative to create space.
That’s why I’m not sure it’s the best thing to bring in Snacks Harrison. The Seahawks could use another defensive tackle in the rotation. Harrison should help keep the linebackers clean too.
Yet nobody is even trying to establish the run against the Seahawks. All of the issues are in the passing game and Harrison is going to contribute diddly squat there. Signing him eats up cap space and doesn’t really solve anything.
His salary won’t be guaranteed so they could cut him again down the line. A temporary signing could be smart. However, he’d need to justify his presence and his salary.
Bobby Wagner tells it like it is
Wagner looked disconsolate after the game. With a pained expression on his face, you could never have guessed the Seahawks had just won to go 3-0.
His words carried no energy. His body language said it all.
This isn’t good enough.
The media sought positives. Wagner wasn’t dismissive. He was polite and answered with respect. He couldn’t hide his true feelings though.
What does it mean to get a stop two weeks in a row to win?
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation”
How good is the run defense?
“It’s good to hold teams under 50 yards or 75 yards rushing but when we’re still giving up as many passing yards as we’re giving up it doesn’t matter”
Shaquill Griffin and Carroll (as noted above) told the same story with their post-game press conferences. If you’d not seen a minute of the action, you’d think the Seahawks had lost.
They know, as well as we do, that this isn’t good enough. This isn’t going to cut it.
Everything I said about the defense in yesterday’s instant reaction piece remains true. The defenders playing at the end deserve immense credit. Shaquem Griffin was like a man possessed — roaming the field in a new central position reading and reacting to the ball. Ryan Neal was mightily impressive in a very difficult situation with Jamal Adams out injured. Alton Robinson and Ugo Amadi stepped up to the plate.
What a tremendous effort, indicative of the culture and the spirit Carroll has created in Seattle.
Yet we also can’t hide from the reality of the overall unit. We can’t just stop discussing it because, by now, we all know things are bad.
I appreciate a lot of fans don’t want to talk about the defense. I know because people tell me all the time. If you want to bask in the glow of a 3-0 record, that’s perfectly understandable. That’s an admirable position to take.
I want to keep talking about it though. That’s my choice, as it is yours to read and debate or not.
As the writer Douglas Murray stated earlier this week:
“It’s much better to write about something that aggravates you or you’re really passionate about because it’s much better writing about those things than something you don’t feel all that enthusiastic about.”
This to me is the defining subject of the off-season and now the regular season. It needs to be discussed a lot.
How did the team come to identify the pass rush as their greatest need and yet do such a poor job despite spending so much money and picks?
How have they taken a problem and made it much worse?
Bobby Wagner isn’t papering over the crack, so why should we?
A brief look at the advanced stats
All stats provided by Pro-Football Reference. If anything changes in the week I will update the numbers.
— Seattle’s blitz percentage dramatically dropped after the Dallas game — from 36% to 22.8%. That suggests they reduced their blitzing significantly this week — although they remain the eighth heaviest blitzer’s in the league (Gregg Williams, on 26.2%, is now ahead of them again).
— The interesting thing is their pressure percentage also significantly dropped as a consequence — going from 22.4% in the first two weeks to 15.4%. That’s now just outside the bottom third in the league, despite the heavy blitzing numbers manufacturing more pressures because you’re always rushing more than the numbers in protection. Last week they were in the top-10 for pressure percentage.
— Jamal Adams only played 65% of the snaps in week three due to his groin injury. It’s likely that the Seahawks’ high blitzing numbers are simply a review of how they’re using him. With him not on the field, the blitzing is reduced. As such, so are the number of pressures.
— What this tells us is the Seahawks rely on blitzing for pressure. That’s stating the obvious at this point. When the blitzing reduces, so does the pressure. When Adams isn’t on the field, the blitzing reduces.
— Seattle’s sack percentage improved from 3% to 3.1% this week — a negligible change. This remains the key issue for the Seahawks. When you are blitzing as often as they are but you’re not sacking the quarterback, you create problems. A secondary becomes exposed. Second level defenders are committed to your pass rush. Instead of letting your elite linebacker and safety read, react and make plays — they are propping up the defensive line.
— Everything just looks discombobulated. That’s perhaps to be expected. This has never been a blitz-heavy team. They’re doing things they’ve never done before and they lack talent up front. It’s not a good mix and won’t be easy to fix during a season.
— The run defense continues to be a mirage that is praised by the media and fans. Of the teams that have played three games, the Seahawks have faced the third fewest carries. Of the meagre 67 run attempts they’ve defended, 17 were designed short-yardage runs or scrambles by Cam Newton or Dak Prescott. Several more were goal-line carries after opponents passed deep into the red zone. When you’re playing a team on track to give up 6890 passing yards in a season, you don’t need to run.
— Look at it this way — if the Seahawks had given up 350 rushing yards on Sunday to Zeke Elliott, would anyone be praising the pass defense for limiting Dak Prescott to 120? The Seahawks are simply too easy to throw against for the run defense to be relevant.
What do the PFF grades say?
Key performers on offense:
Russell Wilson — 89.1
Mike Iupati — 85.2
Jacob Hollister — 77.6
Greg Olsen — 71.5
Duane Brown — 69.1
Tyler Lockett — 68.8
Will Dissly — 66.5
Ethan Pocic — 64.7
Travis Homer — 64.4
Iupati’s pass blocking grade (89.5) was exceptional. Ethan Pocic (81.9) and Chris Carson (80.3) also excelled in pass-pro.
Poor/average performances on offense:
Jamarco Jones — 40.8
Jordan Simmons — 49.7
David Moore — 55.8
Chris Carson — 57.5
Freddie Swain — 58.6
Brandon Shell — 59.4
Carlos Hyde — 60.4
D.K. Metcalf — 60.6
Jamarco Jones received a 22.4 grade in pass protection which is appalling. Jordan Simmons’ run blocking grade was only a 39.6 but he faired better in pass-pro (67.0). Duane Brown was credited with giving up a sack, a hit and three hurries but overall graded well.
Key performers on defense:
Shaquem Griffin — 85.6
Bobby Wagner — 82.5
Ryan Neal — 80.8
Poona Ford — 79.0
Ugo Amadi — 77.3
Jamal Adams — 68.5
Shaquill Griffin — 68.1
Shaquem’s high grade is due to a 90.4 in coverage. His pass rushing grade was a mediocre 60.9 (which, to be fair, passes the eye test for me). It’s worth noting that for that 90.4 grade he was only credited with five snaps in coverage and 12 as a pass rusher so I’m not sure why PFF gave him such a positive overall score. Equally Shaquill’s grade is elevated thanks to an 82.4 grade as a tackler although PFF did give him a decent 67.8 grade in coverage (which doesn’t pass the eye test). Ugo Amadi received a terrific 82.3 grade as a tackler and a 78.7 grade in coverage. This was a big game for Amadi.
Poor/average performances on defense:
Jordyn Brooks — 29.1
Damontre Moore — 34.5
Tre Flowers — 38.8
Benson Mayowa — 45.0
Cody Barton — 48.7
Quandre Diggs — 49.5
Anthony Rush — 53.5
Jarran Reed — 54.8
Bryan Mone — 55.6
Alton Robinson — 57.2
K.J. Wright — 58.7
D’Andre Walker — 59.7
L.J. Collier — 60.9
This was an alarming grade on debut for Brooks but he was coming into a struggling defense. Benson Mayowa received a 28.1 grade for his tackling and a 52.3 grade as a pass rusher despite having fewer snaps this week. Bryan Mone’s run defense grade was a paltry 48.3 yet as a pass rusher he received a 68.2 (which is weird). Alton Robinson’s debut was graded as a 66.1 in run defense, a 73.6 as a tackler and a 61.0 as a pass rusher.
Re-assessing 3-0 by looking at the opponents
This has been an unusual start to the season. No fans, lots of injuries and for the Seahawks they have a record setting offense (in a good way) and a record setting defense (in a bad way).
The teams they’ve played add to the uniqueness of it all. What to make of them? Winning in Atlanta is good. They have a potent set of weapons and a good quarterback. Yet they’ve since imploded, throwing away two games to start 0-3. Dan Quinn might be back in Seattle in a few weeks as a defensive assistant.
The Cowboys equally have a talented offense with an assortment of skill players. They have a good (not great) quarterback. Yet they’re incredible flaky — as we’ve seen in all three games — and seem to have a really muddled identity.
It’s hard to decipher the quality of either win.
Really good? Expected? Modest?
The one victory that looks unquestionably impressive is the New England one. They handled the Raiders. The NFL’s best ever Head Coach has got them organised, disciplined and on-point. Cam Newton is playing well. The Patriots are going to be tough to beat all year and look like a clear playoff team.
It’s just a shame Seattle’s defensive woes had to turn what should’ve been a relatively comfortable victory at 35-23 into an avoidable nail-biter.
Positive injury news
It was a relief to hear none of the injuries were serious. The dreaded ‘ACL’ didn’t emerge like last week.
The NFL really needs to act on Trysten Hill too. That kind of thing needs to be kicked out of the game. A fine alone isn’t suffice. A one-game suspension would be more appropriate along with a severe warning.
If you missed yesterday’s ‘instant reaction’ podcast check it out below…
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