The Seattle Seahawks won over Carolina on Saturday despite a strange personnel rotation on defense.
I’m working on my tape study of Saturday’s playoff game (as best as i can since the all-22 film isn’t available yet) and I noticed a surprising trend. The Seahawks only played five reserves on defense.
Nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane played in approximately half of the team’s defensive snaps. Of those 33 snaps, Seattle move Bruce Irvin to defensive end on 27 of them, rather than pulling one of the starting linebackers off of the field.
The other four reserves were all defensive linemen. Demarcus Dobbs played on 24 of 70 defensive snaps. O’Brien Schofield was on the field for 31. David King made it onto the field for 5. Fullback Will Tulkuafu was on the field for 10 plays on the defensive side of the ball as well.
That isn’t much of a rotation, and far less than Seattle typically used during the regular season.
Part of this was because of the illness of Byron Maxwell and the injury to Jeron Johnson. The Seahawks were limited in the secondary, causing them to stick to their base defense more often.
The other part of this stems from the fact that they were playing Carolina. Carolina has a very good ground game, but lacks weapons in the passing game. Seattle chose to play the 280 pound Tukuafu at the expense of linebacker Malcolm Smith, who is good in coverage but has been a major liability against the run this season.
We will likely see the opposite of this against the Green Bay Packers this week. Despite Eddie Lacy’s success this season, the Packers are still primarily a passing team. The Seahawks will undoubtedly use a variety of packages in the second and at linebacker to help cover Green Bay’s numerous weapons.
I also suspect that we won’t see much, if any, of Tukuafu on defense vs. Green Bay. While he can hold his ground against the run, he isn’t much of a pass rusher. Instead, the Seahawks will likely use more of Smith at LB with Irvin at DE as the Seahawks try to get after Aaron Rodgers.