Defenseless in Seattle

Adrian SimmonsContributor IOctober 10, 2008

The Seahawks defense played so badly Sunday if Tom Hanks threw a pass to Meg Ryan she would have broken three tackles and scored.

Averaging 31 points allowed per game, the Seahawks defense is ranked 29th in the NFL. In games against non-St. Louis teams, the Seahawks are averaging 37 points per game.
The unit also has the honor of being the only team to allow the St. Louis Rams a red-zone opportunity so far this season.
Why are the Seahwaks so defenseless?

Bad coaching?

Defensive coordinator John Marshall is a journeyman coach who has been with the Seahawks since 2003. He first served as linebacker coach until becoming the interim defensive coordinator in mid 2005, due to the health troubles of Ray Rhodes.

Marshall became the full-time defensive coordinator in 2006.

Since Marshall has been defensive coordinator the Seahawks defense has been an erratic, inconsistent unit.

In 2005 the defense performed well, but still were not a top 10 defense save in points per game or red zone defense.

Considering the 2005 unit was playing opposite the number one offense in the NFL, their numbers are even less impressive. That makes the old adage “the best defense is a good offense” especially true given the recent play of the ‘Hawks defense.

In 2006 defense played poorly for most of the year giving up big plays in almost every game. The Swiss cheese run defense was trampled by power backs such as the 49ers Frank Gore.

If not for some late game winning field goals by Josh Brown 2006 would have been a non-playoff year for Seattle.

In 2007 it seemed the Seahawks defense was finally on the verge of greatness ranking 6th place in points allowed and 4th place in sacks giving up the lowest number of passing touchdowns in the NFL (15).

Even with such impressive numbers the 2007 defense had a dog of a game in Atlanta. Still worse they played poorly in Green Bay with the season on the line.

Defensive Coordinator John Marshall has proven to be an inconsistent defensive coordinator at best, leaving fans to wonder how often our defensive coaches are being out-planned and out-coached given the up and down nature of the Seattle defense.

Is it the talent? 

We hear the mantra “undersized, speed defense” tossed around by analysts, coaches, and fans as though it were an undeniable truth that can’t be disputed.

But that doesn’t seem to be true once you take a look at most 4-3 defenses.

The Seattle Seahawks have some big boys on the defensive line with two gap defensive tackle Mebane coming in at 314 pounds, one gap defensive tackle Rocky Bernard coming in at 293 pounds, and our defensive ends Kerney and Lo-Jack coming in at about 270 each.

That is an average weight of 287 pounds. That is pretty comparable to most 4-3 defensive lines including Minnesota and Tennessee’s defensive lines which average 291 pounds and 288 pounds respectively.

Seahawks linebackers are somewhat small in terms of weight and height. That can hurt when the defensive line doesn’t hold.

It can hurt especially badly when your linebackers think they are bigger than they are and try to arm tackle or hit without wrapping up running backs nearly their size or bigger like Giants running back Brendan Jacobs.

But with Pro Bowlers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, plus the solid Leroy Hill starting, this unit is talented and more than capable of doing their job on defense.

Our defensive backs are the right size.

Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant anchors this unit and is backed up by solid Strong Safety Deon Grant.

If there is any weak links in this unit it would be the diminutive Kelly Jennings who seems to have a sign on his back that says: “Throw at me. I’m too small to cover.”

Free Safety Brian Russell also seems to lack the speed and athleticism to cover speedy, athletic NFL receivers.

Yet do the Seahawks have more weak players on defense than other teams? I don’t think so. There is no team that doesn’t field a defense with a few players that aren’t the best at their position.

There are always weak players on any defense. It doesn’t seem that Seattle has more than their share of weak players.

So who is more responsible for the poor defensive play: the coaches or the talent?

My take is that the coaches are more responsible.

It is up to them to develop and maintain the talent, but each year we see defensive players regress from previous years such as Michael Boulware in 2006 and Kelly Jennings in 2008.

Fans have to be asking themselves why can’t secondary coaches Jim Mora and Larry Marmie maintain the level of play of the secondary in 2008? The answer to that question we may not ever know.

Each week it is up to the defensive coaches to create a game plan to stop the opposing offense and make sure the defense can execute that game plan.

Yet how often have the Seahawks started off with a poor defensive game plan that allows opposing offenses to put the Seahawks in a hole in the first half?

Too often according to the scoreboard.

The Seahawks run defense could be better. They do seem susceptible to power run games. But if the secondary and line backers would tackle better rather than trying to land big hits, the Seahawks run defense wouldn’t be quite so porous.

All these problems with the Seattle defense can be directly attributed to coaching. If the coaches fail to reinforce fundamentals like tackling and coverage, then players develop bad habits like arm tackling, going for the big hit without wrapping up, or giving receivers too much of a cushion.

The poor coaching of fundamentals may be a major reason we see at least a few Seahawk defenders regressing each year, and this has been especially true for Seattle linebackers and defensive backs.

Link together the poor coaching of fundamentals, poor game-planning that stems from inaccurate film analysis, and the inability to make in-game adjustments, and you have a recipe for failure.

Until the Seattle Seahawks defensive coaching staff either improves starting with the defensive coordinator or the front office hires better defensive coaches, the Seahawks will find themselves more often than not-defenseless in Seattle.


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