What we learned from the Seahawks barn-burner loss at New Orleans
By Matthew Holm
The Seahawks’ run defense is coming along, sort of.
Yes, I’m serious. As much grief as I’ve given Seattle’s putrid run fits over the last month, there were areas where they looked, dare I say, even good on Sunday. Yes, they gave up a million and a half yards to Taysom Hill. I understand that doesn’t look good when you look up which teams have given up the most rushing yards.
Here’s the thing, though — the Seahawks are not going to face another Taysom Hill this season. The only other QB in the NFL asked to run the option as often as Hill would be Trey Lance, and he’s already out for the year. And against the Saints’ halfbacks, Seattle wasn’t half-bad. They gave up 119 yards on 32 carries. That’s a clip of less than four yards a carry, which would be in the top quarter of the league over the course of the season.
Specifically, Uchenna Nwosu has proven me wrong about his abilities in run defense, and getting Shelby Harris helped in a big way. Between Al Woods and Bryan Mone, the Seahawks are already set at nose tackle, and that’s made Poona Ford an exercise in sunk cost fallacy. Ford is the highest-paid player on this defense, and it’s becoming clear that he’s a 4-3 specialist at this point, because he just hasn’t matched up well playing heads-up on the offensive line the way most 3-4 defensive linemen do.
Seattle could really stand to re-evaluate his share of the snaps because Ford still looks lost, and they need to find someone to win those matchups, or else Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks will continue to find themselves on the outside looking in on that side of the formation.
There are a couple of options for Seattle in that regard, but none are terribly appealing at the moment — they could give Quinton Jefferson more snaps, but he’s primarily been a pass rush specialist to this point in his career, and it’s worth questioning whether giving him more snaps will improve the run defense. They could immediately plug L.J. Collier into Ford’s spot, hoping that Collier is a better 3-4 DE than he was a 4-3 DE.
I don’t doubt Collier has worn out his welcome with Seahawks fans at this point, though, and it’s perfectly fair to question whether he would have anything additional to offer playing heads-up. The free agent market is equally thin at the position, and the only two options that make sense to me would be Robert Nkemdiche, who the Seahawks already released, and Ndamukong Suh, who is transcendentally talented, but also carries a less-than-stellar reputation.
Here’s the thing, though — if you fix that position, the rest of Seattle’s defense starts to click into place. There are still questions as to who pressures the QB, but Ryan Neal has, once again, proven to be a suitable backup for Jamal Adams, and Cody Barton has played better than his reputation suggests, in part because the line in front of him has been so bad. It’s just a matter of one or two more holes to patch, and there’s enough talent in other places to not be completely terrible.