The Legion of Blitz & more hot topics

Jamal Adams’ sack record is getting a lot of attention this week.

Some say it is over-inflated – like a blind squirrel finding a nut in a park full of them. Some say Pete Carroll’s use of a safety as his main sack guy has completely changed his defense. And some say Carroll is again revolutionizing secondary play for the entire NFL.

We say Carroll is doing what he always tries to do (and often succeeds at doing): Use the skills of his players to best effect. So yeah, LOB now means Legion of Blitz. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The blockbuster trade for Adams in July clearly was John Schneider’s makeup for not getting a top pass rusher earlier in the offseason, and Carroll obviously knew he was going to use Adams, who had a history of blitz production, as a de facto pass rusher. (Of course, no one could have predicted Adams would lead the team with 8.5 sacks, an NFL record for a defensive back, and rank eighth in the NFL.)

Some think Carroll is totally altering his defense to fit in Adams. Here’s the thing about Carroll: He always has tweaked his defense to fit his personnel – using his players the best way he could think of.

He found a position that made Red Bryant a productive player, turned supersized Kam Chancellor into one of the NFL’s best safeties, helped lanky, not overly fast Richard Sherman become a star, got CFL refugee Brandon Browner and sixth-rounder Jeremy Lane to play above their heads, etc.

Carroll used to avoid the blitz more than any NFL coach, but Seattle’s blitz numbers are way up in 2020, largely because Adams blitzes more than any defensive back in the NFL. Some think that signals a departure or evolution for Carroll. But we actually have seen him do this before.

In 2010, Carroll’s first year, he used Lawyer Milloy in much the same way. Not with the same volume, but the 36-year-old Milloy played around the line of scrimmage a lot (the Seahawks did not have very good linebackers) and Milloy tallied four sacks (third on the team behind Chris Clemons’ 11 and Raheem Brock’s nine).  

This defense is kind of like that 2010 unit, which was the first year of the foundation that became the Legion of Boom. This unit ranks just as poorly in yards allowed – both 27th – but is better in scoring (18th at 24.9 ppg vs. 25th at 25.4 ppg) and DVOA (19th vs. 29th). 

The 2010 defense improved a lot in 2011 (seventh in scoring, ninth in yards, 10th in DVOA) when it added Browner and Sherman to go with safeties Earl Thomas and Chancellor (that quartet combined for 16 interceptions in 2011).

Ten years later, Carroll is right back in that situation. He has his safeties and needs corners in 2021.

Carroll loves Adams, who seems like a great leader and team spokesman as well, and clearly expects to keep him for as long as Carroll, who just signed a new five-year deal, leads the Seahawks. “He’s been everything we could have hoped for at this point, and he’s going to keep getting better,” Carroll said. “He’s a fantastic player. I’m thrilled about the trade.”

Adams is going to get a new deal, and he also will find more comfort in Carroll’s defense as the coach figures out all the right ways to use him the rest of this season and next offseason.

Quandre Diggs is around for another year – unless Schneider trades him in 2021. He’s not impactful enough to merit more than the $5.5 million he will get paid next season, so a trade might be the way to go. In that case, Marquise Blair (when healthy) or D.J. Reed easily could start opposite Adams.

Then it comes down to getting new corners. With Shaquill Griffin likely too spendy and injury-prone Quinton Dunbar not expected back, Reed and Tre Flowers would be the default starters — pending the draft, a cheap addition or another trade.

Like 2011, the secondary is being built again, but one thing is for sure: Adams will be leading the new Legion of Blitz.

There is some chatter that Bobby Wagner should be on the chopping block due to his high salary (second only to Russell Wilson). But don’t count on the team moving on from him just two years after signing him to a massive extension through 2022.

It is true Wagner has cooled down after a hot first half of the season. He had a really rough game against the Giants, getting washed out of a lot of plays (including the key 60-yard run by Wayne Gallman). Until his fumble recovery against the Jets, he had not been involved in a turnover all season either.

But it still has been a solid year for him. He is the third NFL player in 20 years with 100 tackles in nine consecutive seasons. He has three sacks, 11 QB hits (second on the team), seven passes defensed (fourth) and seven tackles for loss (fourth). He has four big plays (turnovers or sacks) – about his usual pace.

Yeah, Wagner was grossly overpaid (at $18 million) when he signed his second extension last year – thanks to the incompetent Jets grossly overpaying C.J. Mosley (who played just two games in 2019 and opted out of 2020 due to the coronavirus). But Wagner is a Seahawks leader, and Carroll and Schneider obviously thought it was worth it to reward him as they continued to rebuild their defense after the 2018 demolition. 

Wagner has a $17 million cap hit next year, second only to Wilson’s $32 million, but the Hawks are not likely to mess with it; they have enough other contracts they can adjust/extend to create cap space (if the cap indeed shrinks by $20 million).

They have plenty of projected cap space in 2023 because only Wilson is signed to a big contract at that point, but that is when the Hawks likely would (or certainly should) balk at paying Wagner outrageous money again. He might end up elsewhere in 2023, when he is 33 and going on his 12th NFL season.

Whenever he does leave, Wagner apparently wants his No. 54 jersey to be retired and never worn again — unlike Thomas’ No. 29 and Chancellor’s No. 31, worn this year by Reed and DeeJay Dallas.

People also are talking about K.J. Wright’s future. He has had another excellent season, particularly after moving to the strong side. He is second on the team in tackles (68) and has a team-high nine TFLs, plus one interception (could have had three more vs. Miami), eight PDs, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He has blown up at least half a dozen screen plays, too. This season is right up there with 2014, 2016 (Pro Bowl) and 2019 as Wright’s best. We’ve been projecting Wright, 31, to return at around $6 million in 2021, so hopefully that happens. As Ken Norton Jr. said, “I can’t imagine this team without him. He’s that good.”

Chris Carson is good, too, when he’s healthy. His toughness and physicality add a needed element to Seattle’s offense. Carroll has always liked that, and Carson and Carlos Hyde take the pressure off Russell Wilson, when they are healthy. The Hawks need at least one of them for the playoffs.

The Hawks could get some help though with Rashaad Penny’s pending return. If he shows he can run like he was doing before he got hurt last season, he should set himself up as the starter in his contract season next year.

Carson likely will need to sign a prove-it deal in 2021, so Seattle very well could have him back for at least a year. We reiterate that the most we would pay him is $6 million a year – either on a three-year, incentive-heavy deal or a one-year contract. It’s not feasible to pay a guy to be tough when he is healthy for only 12 games a season.

With Damon Harrison playing nose tackle, Poona Ford has been able to show his ability at 3-technique. In the five games Harrison has played, Ford has two sacks, five QB hits, 11 pressures and four tackles for loss. Ford had no sacks and 13 pressures in the first eight games. His eight tackles for loss are third on the team. The former undrafted free agent definitely has earned the second-round tender, likely worth around $3.4 million, in the offseason (and maybe an extension before the season starts).

If Josh Gordon is ready to roll next week, he should quickly take the No. 3 receiving gig from David Moore, who has looked slow and has been very ineffective over the past few weeks. Moore has 53 yards on 18 targets/runs over the past five games. That includes 11 catches for 41 yards — a measly 3.7 average. Brian Schottenheimer is just wasting plays when he runs sweeps and screens with Moore, who simply does not have the quickness to do much with them. Assuming Gordon is in shape, he should be a big upgrade as the No. 3 guy.

We agree with Carroll that Brandon Shell needs to stick around beyond the two-year, $11 million deal he signed in March. He was Seattle’s best free-agent addition this year – and probably the best since Bradley McDougald in 2017. “I love that acquisition,” Carroll said. “I think he’s so steady and … I hope he can be around for a long time with us.”

Meanwhile, Duane Brown, the “other” tackle, is having a great season. Per @NextGenStats, he is the No. 2 pass-blocking OT in the NFL (the Seahawks are the No. 4 pass-blocking offense). Brown, 35, has a year left on his contract, and it sounds like he will be back for it, which is good news for Seattle.

“I’m just taking it year by year,” he said. “I don’t want to tell my body when it’s time to shut it down. … I’m just enjoying it. I’m enjoying each and every Sunday, and enjoying each and every year. …”

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