Seattle Seahawks newly vaunted defense could be the key to contention

Seattle seems to have found its latest version of a great defense, but is the really true?

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In the last four weeks, the Seattle Seahawks have allowed 30 total points, racked up 18 combined sacks, and have been tackling with proficiency and violence. With Seattle's starters getting healthy, this unit is rolling for the Seahawks, so much so that former Seattle defender KJ Wright has compared this current defense and the infamous "Legion of Boom" defense on his latest podcast.

Seattle has made many vital improvements on defense as of late, and if they can sustain this level of play, could the defense fuel the Seahawks into title contention?

For the Seahawks to reach the ceiling of their full potential, Seattle will need to get production from the defensive side of the ball, of course. Seattle has invested bountiful amounts of capital into the defense in recent years. After the plethora of draft picks the Seahawks acquired through the Russell Wilson trade, Seattle has spent nine of those draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. Not only that, but reuniting with Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed and the big contracts given to Dre'Mont Jones, Jamal Adams, and Quandre Diggs; GM John Schnieder has made significant investments to revamp this Seahawks' defense.

Seattle did have a slow start to the year defensively, but after the first three weeks, this unit has become significantly healthier and more cohesive. The most prominent problem for Seattle early in the season was getting off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert on nearly 58 percent of their third downs. In those first three games, the defense allowed 88 points, but in the most recent three-game stretch for the Seahawks, the defense allows third-down conversions at a 33 percent rate and allows 10 points per game over that recent stretch.

Is the Seattle Seahawks defense for real in 2023?

Over that same stretch, Seattle welcomed back the likes of Jamal Adams and top-5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon. Once Witherspoon and Adams were injected into the lineup, Seattle's defense started playing with more passion and energy. The pressure and man coverage win rates are significantly improved as of late, directly correlating with the return of Adams and Witherspoon.

The secondary shined in the Seahawks' Week 6 loss to the Bengals, allowing a mere 168 passing yards and a total yardage mark of 214. Devon Witherspoon noticeably impacted the Bengals' game plan to target Ja'marr Chase, and Jamal Adams was sniffing out every screen before it fully developed. It was the most impressive performance by this unit of defense all season.

According to Pro Football Reference, Seattle is blitzing at a 20 percent rate. This ranks 26th in the league. Despite this, the Seahawks are 6th in the league in sacks at 23.

In other terms, the Seahawks defense is one of only three teams to have more than 20 sacks and have more sacks than QB knockdowns. Seattle is blitzing at the right time and places on defense and converting pressure into sacks at a very high rate, especially after week three and racking up 18 of their 23 total sacks over the past three games.

Another important aspect of Seattle's defensive improvement is the rush defense. Coming into the year, we knew Seattle emphasized improving against stopping the run. This year, through six games, Seattle is top-three in the league in yards per carry allowed and total rushing yards given up. The Seahawks are playing fast, violent, and disciplined football.

Thus far through 2023, the Seahawks have looked more intelligent in the run game, and an enormous credit is due to Bobby Wagner. Wagner has Stepped right back into his leadership role within the Seattle D and has inspired Jordyn Brooks to step up and exhibit the same confidence he did last season while Wagner was away. That cohesive understanding and mutual effort is why the Seahawks' rush defense has been so stout.

Dremont Jones and Jarran Reed are excelling between the tackles. Uchenna Nwosu, Darrel Taylor, and Boye Mafe are sustainably creating pressure off the edge, and Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner have filled run gaps and seemingly made every tackle. Accompanied by the back end featuring a healthy Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Riq Woolen, and Devon Witherspoon, they have been entirely stellar in coverage and open space, making highly efficient open-field tackles. The entire unit is feeding off of each other and seemingly building momentum each week.

Similarly to 2012, when the "Legion of Boom" made a name for themselves, the play of this 2023 Seahawks defense could vault Seattle into the title contention they've been planning for since trading Russell Wilson. This defense is already too stout and disciplined; it's scary for the opponents to think Seattle could keep improving with how many young and talented players they continue to develop.

Ideally, the Seahawks will look to continue playing good fundamental coverage, stuffing the run before it gets rolling. But the key to it all will be sustaining a highly efficient pass-rush game that only has to blitz when necessary.

With Geno Smith and the offense also looking like a top-10 unit in the league, it's exciting to see the true potential for Seattle. If the Seahawks can keep these numbers they've exhibited over the last month, the sky is the limit for this young and talented team. Rostering a stable of young defensive up-and-coming stars, along with multiple established Pro Bowl-caliber players, the Seahawks defense has the potential to be one of the best in the entire NFL. If Seattle can stay healthy, look for this team to make a run for the NFC title.

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