Seahawks defense created one interesting bell curve – upside down
The Hawks defense followed the exact opposite trend of the offense. They started off poorly, improved in the middle of the season, then gradually wore down toward the end of the year. Within games, they started strong but weakened the longer they stayed on the field. In the first quarter of all games, Seattle’s defense allowed just six touchdowns. That increased to 11 in the second quarter, 11 in the third, and 12 in the fourth quarter.
At mid-season, the Hawks D ranked fourth in the league in points allowed. By season’s end, they dropped to 11th, Ken Norton Jr.’s usual spot. The average Seahawks drive lasted 2:19. The average Hawks opponent’s drive lasted 3:10. It’s pretty difficult to win when the other team has the ball 36 percent longer than you do on every drive.
Defensive line: The pass rush was supposed to be the strength of this defense. Yet they dropped from 46 sacks and 109 QB hits in 2020 to 34 and 92 this year. That tends to happen when you change you decide to drop from 403 blitzes to just 231. Bobby Wagner blitzed 100 times in 2020, Jamal Adams 98 times. In 2020, BWagz ran just 42 blitzes, the Prez only 44. Jordyn Brooks blitzed 46 times compared to K.J. Wright’s 72 the previous season.
The D line didn’t come close to picking up the slack. Carlos Dunlap led the charge, such as it was, with 8.5 sacks. The problem is that he collected seven of those in the last four games of the year. Darrell Taylor started off the season like a monster with four sacks and five QB hits in his first five games. He cooled off significantly as the season progressed though and only recorded 2.5 more sacks.
Rasheem Green contributed 6.5 sacks. No one else on the D-line had more than two sacks. That was Poona Ford, who was second on the team with nine QB hurries. They were great at stopping the run though, largely – and I do mean largely – due to the talents of Ford and Al Woods. Overall: C
Linebackers: I have two words for you, 12s: Bobby Wagner. Now we can add two more: Jordyn Brooks. Wagner broke the Seahawks record for most tackles in a season (his own), despite missing virtually all of the last two games. Brooks then broke the record in the season finale with 184. As Lee Vowell said on the 12thManRising podcast, that’s actually not great. When two players make 24 percent of all the solo tackles on your team, there are issues elsewhere.
That being said, Wagner missed 12 tackles, and Brooks missed 10. Yes, that’s still pretty darn good. But let me remind you, in 2018 Mr. Wagner missed one tackle. That was O N E, 1. The QB passer rating when Wagner was targeted was 97.9; versus Brooks, it was 118.1. In 2020, Wagner’s passer rating allowed was 88.9, while Wright’s was 106.6. Cody Barton did play well when forced to step in for Wagner.
For reasons only known to the defensive mastermind Norton Jr., the Hawks often dropped two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap into coverage. Even better, 310 pound Poona Ford and 330 pound Al Woods were asked to cover receivers over the middle at times. Ummm… no. Sadly, Wagner and Brooks were really all the Hawks had backing the line. Overall: B-
Secondary: The safeties were expected to be a strength, the corners a question mark. As it turned out, only one of their Pro Bowl safeties warranted a return trip. Jamal Adams dropped from 9.5 sacks to absolute zero. Quandre Diggs hauled down five picks for the second straight year in Seattle, giving him at least three interceptions for five consecutive years.
It took the Hawks half the season to sort out the picture at cornerback, but between D.J. Reed, Tre Brown, and Sidney Jones, the outside looks solid. As for corner slot, well, the search goes on. Overall: C
Special teams: Punter Michael Dickson was somehow left out of the Pro Bowl despite dropping 42 punts inside the 20, 12 of those inside the 10. Hell, he should have been voted in just for that insane double-punt. His partner in the Guild of the Golden Foot, Jason Myers, definitely fell off this season. We knew he wasn’t going to nail every single field goal as he did in 2020, but less than 75 percent was a big drop. The Seahawks did have a solid coverage unit though, as opponents had the worst average starting position in the league. That, of course, makes the defensive lapses all the worse. Overall: C+