Mike Macdonald believes one young Seahawks player is ready to explode

Seattle should have an improved defense in 2024, but Mike Macdonald thinks one offensive player is ready to break out.
Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald
Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Mike Macdonald knows how to make great defenses. The Seattle Seahawks hired Macdonald to fix the mess that former coach Pete Carroll had, unfortunately, allowed to happen. Carroll led Seattle to some of the best defenses ever when he first came to Seattle, but he seemed to be incapable of adjusting to the way many offenses now operate.

Macdonald has proven in the last couple of years to be one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL. His scheme will work. The question is how quickly the players can learn Macdonald's plan and then play quickly and naturally without thinking too much. If Seattle's defenses can be as good as the middle of the league, Seattle could win ten games or more in 2024.

But in a recent press conference, one of the young Seahawks players that Macdonald was most excited about wasn't a defensive player. The new head coach raved about second-year wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and implied Seattle specifically has a plan in place to get the best use out of the receiver. At the first part of his rookie season, former offensive coordinator Shane Waldron seemed at a loss for what to do with JSN.

Seattle Seahawks plan to use Jaxon Smith-Njigba much better than former OC Shane Waldron did

Macdonald said, "JSN’s a great player, and expecting big things out of him. He’s had a great offseason. Works his tail off, his practice habits are awesome, moving ability is pretty elite. So, I think we’ve got a really cool plan for him."

Waldron did not have a real plan for JSN. In fact, at the beginning of 2023, Waldron appeared to want to use Smith-Njigba the same way the team had been trying to use Dee Eskridge. This meant JSN running shorter routes with many of them being quick outs. JSN's yards per reception were well below 10 yards a catch for much of the first half of the season simply because he was limited by the offense to go deep.

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Eventually, Waldron figured out that Smith-Njigba had the quickness and speed to get by cornerbacks and JSN's number began to improve. For instance, JSN was matched up against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry late in Week 15 and Waldron called a play for quarterback Drew Lock to throw to JSN down the sideline. Smith-Njigba beat Bradberry for a game-winning touchdown.

New offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb knows how to scheme his receivers to get open deep. This is going to help JSN, and in return, that should help the overall offense. Smith-Njigba should get a lot more chances against one-on-one coverage deep. In 2023, Smith-Njigba caught 63 passes for 628 yards. This season, JSN could see those numbers improve to 75 and 900, respectively.

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