Over the last two games the Seahawks defense has completely turned it around. However, the unsung hero of the defensive resurgence is none other than Quandre Diggs.
Over the first half the season, the Seahawks had one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The team failed to create turnovers, generate QB pressure or stop the passing game. Once Quandre Diggs stepped onto the field, the defense got some of its swagger back.
To all my colleagues and friends, I have stated from day one of this season the only way our defense would succeed would be to have a tone-setting presence in the secondary. We all know Shaquill Griffin has taken a huge leap forward, however he is more of the agile player who excels in ball skills as opposed to a physical presence. Tre Flowers is a solid foundational player, however lacks big play ability. Bradley McDougald is a Swiss army knife in the secondary, however, he is more of complementary piece that needs a solid player next to him to shine.
McDougald has started at one of the safety positions all season with the other safety being one of Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and Marquise Blair. All 3 of these players have had their ups and their downs. Thompson finally started to show his ball hawk mentality, however he severely lacks in tackling fundamentals and coverage ability.
Delano Hill has been a tone setter when in the game however, he has been a liability playing the deep ball and has proven to be injury prone. Marquise Blair has shown good instincts and as a tone setter however, has made many rookie mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, this is no slight against Blair, he is just inexperienced, and I fully expect him to become a very solid piece in the future, if not a star.
Each opposing safety had their Achilles heel, thus McDougald was forced to play conservatively in order help his safety counterpart. In turn both cornerbacks, Shaquill Griffin, and Tre Flowers, were forced to play well off the receiver to avoid getting burned deep. It allowed opposing quarterbacks to feast on the short to mid-range passes. Simply, the defensive coordinators elected to protect against the deep ball and our less than stellar safeties combinations.
To put into perspective, this season the opposing quarterbacks have targeted short passes on 87% of passing plays, that is up from 81% last year and 72% the year prior. In passes that are deemed short there is an average completion percentage of roughly 68% on the year.
Since Quandre Diggs has been inserted into the starting free safety position, it has allowed Seattle’s secondary to play more aggressive on the ball because they know there is help over the top. During this span Seattle has generated 8 turnovers, including 3 interceptions. Inserting Diggs has brought a level of comfort to the defense as well as the tone setting hits, leadership and big play ability.
After Diggs first start against the 49ers, when Carroll was asked about some of the highlight reel hits Carroll said:
"“It was an impact. I thought both the safeties played really well. (Diggs) he’s a hitter. He’s a real hitter and (he isn’t afraid) to go for it. He had a couple big shots. I think he was a big factor later on in the game.”"
Clearly Carroll sees the importance of having a tone setting entity in the secondary. Having a player that can make the big hits and keeps the receivers honest is crucial to limiting the passing game. It is the “it” factor that Seattle has sorely missed all year with the absence of Earl Thomas.
It’s not just the coaches that are taking a notice to what Diggs is bringing to the game. After the Eagles game when KJ Wright was asked about Diggs:
"“Quandre is the man, and I’m glad he’s on the team. Ever since he came here, somehow, we’ve been playing super dominant. When you’ve got a bad man in the middle of the field that’s running red line to red line, making big hits, that can (really) make a statement on your defense….”"
This beautifully sums up just how good Diggs has been in Seattle. In the game against the Eagles, Diggs left that contest with the highest PFF grade of the game at 88.4. His overall grade has increased from a very average 58.5 on the season (before the trade) to 67 after the Eagles matchup. That’s a large jump after two stellar performances. It appears his move to Seattle has been quite amicable for both parties.
Diggs is only 26 and his very affordable contract will keep him in Seattle through 2021. His highest cap hit will be in 2021 at just $5.5 million. Its crazy to think we got a player of his magnitude, on this contract, for just a 2020 5th round pick. John Schneider just can’t seem to miss this year. If the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, he fully deserves to be in the conversation for General Manager of the Year with yet another stellar pick up.